Eight of My Very Favourite Mainstream Fantasy Reads

When you read a good book, you want the whole world to know about it and read it too. The books on this list are all relatively well-known already, but I loved them so much that I’m here to tell you the hype is all true and that you should definitely bump them up higher on your TBR pile.

The Final Empire (Mistborn Series) – Brandon Sanderson

An intriguing concept and a compelling magic system. This is the series that introduced Sanderson to me and I’ve never looked back.

For a thousand years the ash fell and no flowers bloomed. For a thousand years the Skaa slaved in misery and lived in fear. For a thousand years the Lord Ruler, the “Sliver of Infinity,” reigned with absolute power and ultimate terror, divinely invincible. Then, when hope was so long lost that not even its memory remained, a terribly scarred, heart-broken half-Skaa rediscovered it in the depths of the Lord Ruler’s most hellish prison. Kelsier “snapped” and found in himself the powers of a Mistborn. A brilliant thief and natural leader, he turned his talents to the ultimate caper, with the Lord Ruler himself as the mark.

Kelsier recruited the underworld’s elite, the smartest and most trustworthy allomancers, each of whom shares one of his many powers, and all of whom relish a high-stakes challenge. Only then does he reveal his ultimate dream, not just the greatest heist in history, but the downfall of the divine despot.

But even with the best criminal crew ever assembled, Kel’s plan looks more like the ultimate long shot, until luck brings a ragged girl named Vin into his life. Like him, she’s a half-Skaa orphan, but she’s lived a much harsher life. Vin has learned to expect betrayal from everyone she meets, and gotten it. She will have to learn to trust, if Kel is to help her master powers of which she never dreamed.

This saga dares to ask a simple question: What if the hero of prophecy fails?

The Name of the Wind (The Kingkiller Chronicle) – Patrick Rothfuss

One day Rothfuss will write the third book in this series and I’ll be able to die contentedly, but for now, I reread the first two books sporadically to keep them fresh in my mind so that I’m ready when that promised day comes.

“I have stolen princesses back from sleeping barrow kings. I burned down the town of Trebon. I have spent the night with Felurian and left with both my sanity and my life. I was expelled from the University at a younger age than most people are allowed in. I tread paths by moonlight that others fear to speak of during day. I have talked to Gods, loved women, and written songs that make the minstrels weep.

My name is Kvothe.
You may have heard of me.”

So begins the tale of Kvothe – currently known as Kote, the unassuming innkeeper – from his childhood in a troupe of traveling players, through his years spent as a near-feral orphan in a crime-riddled city, to his daringly brazen yet successful bid to enter a difficult and dangerous school of magic. In these pages you will come to know Kvothe the notorious magician, the accomplished thief, the masterful musician, the dragon-slayer, the legend-hunter, the lover, the thief and the infamous assassin.

Shadow and Bone (The Shadow and Bone Trilogy) – Leigh Bardugo

For everyone jumping on the Netflix bandwagon, I read this series long before it was cool (I can also say that about Game of Thrones, by the way). It’s a coming-into-power story with a distinct Slavic flavour and I loved it.

Soldier. Summoner. Saint. Orphaned and expendable, Alina Starkov is a soldier who knows she may not survive her first trek across the Shadow Fold – a swath of unnatural darkness crawling with monsters. But when her regiment is attacked, Alina unleashes dormant magic not even she knew she possessed.

Now Alina will enter a lavish world of royalty and intrigue as she trains with the Grisha, her country’s magical military elite – and falls under the spell of their notorious leader, the Darkling. He believes Alina can summon a force capable of destroying the Shadow Fold and reuniting their war-ravaged country, but only if she can master her untamed gift.

As the threat to the kingdom mounts and Alina unlocks the secrets of her past, she will make a dangerous discovery that could threaten all she loves and the very future of a nation.

Welcome to Ravka . . . a world of science and superstition where nothing is what it seems.

Cinder (The Lunar Chronicles) – Marissa Meyer

I’m not really one for fairytale retellings, but Meyer can do no wrong in my eyes. The entire series is deftly written (and should technically be considered a sci-fi, but to me it’s less about the science and more about the fantasy, so it made the list) and a whole lot of fun.

Humans and androids crowd the raucous streets of New Beijing. A deadly plague ravages the population. From space, a ruthless lunar people watch, waiting to make their move. No one knows that Earth’s fate hinges on one girl. . . .

Cinder, a gifted mechanic, is a cyborg. She’s a second-class citizen with a mysterious past, reviled by her stepmother and blamed for her stepsister’s illness. But when her life becomes intertwined with the handsome Prince Kai’s, she suddenly finds herself at the center of an intergalactic struggle, and a forbidden attraction. Caught between duty and freedom, loyalty and betrayal, she must uncover secrets about her past in order to protect her world’s future.

Renegades (Renegades Trilogy) – Marissa Meyer

Superhero stories count as fantasy, don’t they? If you like the X-Men, then you’ll love this trilogy. It absolutely wowed me with creative powers, intriguing yet relatable characters and an interesting premise.

Secret Identities.
Extraordinary Powers.
She wants vengeance. He wants justice.

The Renegades are a syndicate of prodigies—humans with extraordinary abilities—who emerged from the ruins of a crumbled society and established peace and order where chaos reigned. As champions of justice, they remain a symbol of hope and courage to everyone…except the villains they once overthrew.

Nova has a reason to hate the Renegades, and she is on a mission for vengeance. As she gets closer to her target, she meets Adrian, a Renegade boy who believes in justice—and in Nova. But Nova’s allegiance is to the villains who have the power to end them both.

Strange the Dreamer (Strange the Dreamer Duology) – Laini Taylor

One day when I grow up, I want to be able to write as beautifully as Taylor does. This story is magical, mesmerizing and utterly unputdownable. Read it!

The dream chooses the dreamer, not the other way around–and Lazlo Strange, war orphan and junior librarian, has always feared that his dream chose poorly. Since he was just five years old, he’s been obsessed with the mythic lost city of Weep, but it would take someone bolder than he to cross half the world in search of it. Then a stunning opportunity presents itself, in the form of a hero called the Godslayer and a band of legendary warriors, and he has to seize his chance or lose his dream forever.

What happened in Weep two hundred years ago to cut it off from the rest of the world? And who is the blue-skinned goddess who appears in Lazlo’s dreams?

In this sweeping and breathtaking novel by National Book Award finalist Laini Taylor, author of the New York Times bestselling Daughter of Smoke & Bone trilogy, the shadow of the past is as real as the ghosts who haunt the citadel of murdered gods. Fall into a mythical world of dread and wonder, moths and nightmares, love and carnage.

The answers await in Weep.

Circe – Madeline Miller

I love all things Greek myth and Miller wove a tail so evocative that it rekindled my obsession for the classics. It was high time these tales were told from a feminine point of view.

Woman. Witch. Myth. Mortal. Outcast. Lover. Destroyer. Survivor. CIRCE.

In the house of Helios, god of the sun and mightiest of the Titans, a daughter is born. Circe is a strange child – not powerful and terrible, like her father, nor gorgeous and mercenary like her mother. Scorned and rejected, Circe grows up in the shadows, at home in neither the world of gods or mortals. But Circe has a dark power of her own: witchcraft. When her gift threatens the gods, she is banished to the island of Aiaia where she hones her occult craft, casting spells, gathering strange herbs and taming wild beasts. Yet a woman who stands alone will never be left in peace for long – and among her island’s guests is an unexpected visitor: the mortal Odysseus, for whom Circe will risk everything.

So Circe sets forth her tale, a vivid, mesmerizing epic of family rivalry, love and loss – the defiant, inextinguishable song of woman burning hot and bright through the darkness of a man’s world.

Uprooted – Naomi Novik

I first read Novik’s Temeraire series long ago (which I enjoyed immensely), so I knew I was in for a treat, but this was so much more than I’d expected! A wonderfully immersive story that will appeal to all high fantasy lovers. (Her other standalone novel, Spinning Silver, was also a fantastic read.)

Agnieszka loves her village, set deep in a peaceful valley. But the nearby enchanted forest casts a shadow over her home. Many have been lost to the Wood and none return unchanged. The villagers depend on an ageless wizard, the Dragon, to protect them from the forest’s dark magic. However, his help comes at a terrible price. One young village woman must serve him for ten years, leaving all they value behind.

Agnieszka fears her dearest friend Kasia will be picked at the next choosing, for she’s everything Agnieszka is not – beautiful, graceful and brave. Yet when the Dragon comes, it’s not Kasia he takes.

(PS: This post contains affiliate links. They don’t cost you any extra, but if you buy something with them I will get a small fee to fuel my reading addiction. Thanks!)

Have you read any of these books yet? Did you love them as much as I do? What would you have added to this list?

Eight Classic Fantasy Novels That Shaped My Reading Tastes

Some books you read and a week from now the details are gone, but others not only stay with you for many years, they also shape the future of your entire reading landscape. Before I discovered the books on this list, reading was a fun activity to keep an only child busy, but life was never the same after I read the first book on this list. A lifelong obsession with fantasy was born, one that has spilled over into the movies I watch and the books I write myself today.

The Hobbit – JRR Tolkien

I will forever be grateful to my uncle who gave me his well-loved copy of this classic novel as a gift when I was about 9 years old. Up until then I’d been tearing through Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys, but this book changed everything. Suddenly the world was a place filled with hobbits! And wizards! And dwarves! And elves! And dragons!! My imagination was unleashed and has been running rampant ever since.

The Lord of the Rings – JRR Tolkien

Of course, after that I had to have more, and Tolkien did not disappoint. Epic fate-of-the-world-depends-on-it quest, star-crossed lovers, heart-wrenching deaths – I lapped it all up. And I think Aragorn might have been my first fictional crush…

I adore this book so much, I reread every few years and if asked what my favourite book of all time is, this is always my answer. Yes, it’s a little dated by now, but it was genre-defining at the time and the story it tells is timeless. I just love it.

The Silmarillion – JRR Tolkien

I wanted more, more, more! And Tolkien still did not disappoint. I know the Silmarillion isn’t for everyone, but if you enjoy myths and legends, like I do, and you love Middle-Earth, like I do, then these tales will delight and enthrall you, like they did me.

The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (The Chronicles of Narnia) – CS Lewis

Actually, the entire Narnia series, which I first read in the suggested order, starting with The Magician’s Nephew. I was too little at the time to understand all the allegory tucked into the stories – to me it was just a magical gateway to a land of talking animals and ice queens, and the conclusion in The Last Battle blew me away. To this day, I will always open any old wardrobe I come across to see if there’s a door to Narnia for me hidden in there.

A Wizard of Earthsea (The Earthsea Cycle) – Ursula K Le Guin

I think Ged might have been my second book crush. The Archipelago and the magic system in this book, not to mention the fact that the protagonist’s skin is a little darker than I was used to, was so unusual to my early-teen self that this series immediately rocketed onto my all-time favourites list. I reread the entire series (plus the shorter stories that I didn’t even know existed until recently) a year or so ago and it was even more amazing as an adult reader. This is a series that makes you think deeply while you’re off on an astounding adventure.

Pawn of Prophecy (The Belgariad) – David Eddings

Enter Eddings with the Belgariad, Malloreon, Elenium and Tamuli series – all books I discovered at my local library that now have pride of place on my own shelves. It was Garion and company who first awakened in me the urge to become a writer. I loved traversing the world with them so much, learning how to use the Will and the Word, sneaking around with Silk (book crush number three!), that I never wanted the stories to end. I thought if I could bring someone else just a bit of the joy these books had brought me, then I would have done something worth doing.

(It pains me to say that after a recent reread, the Belgariad at least doesn’t really hold up anymore, but if you’ve never read them before and you’re only starting out on your fantasy journey, then they are definitely worth diving into.)

The Eye of the World (The Wheel of Time) – Robert Jordan

If you haven’t read WoT yet, then can you really call yourself a fantasy fan? Yes, it’s a 13-book series and yes, it does sag a bit in the middle, but trust me, you won’t regret dedicating a few months of your life to following Rand and the gang around. Finally, I got the heroic female cast I hadn’t known I’d been waiting for – Moiraine, Egwene, Nynaeve and the rest of the ladies play just as an important part in the events of the story as the boys do, and it was about time too. I still remember exactly where I was when I read the Final Battle, and almost a decade later I still have a book hangover after the series ended.

Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone (Harry Potter) – JK Rowling

No list would be complete without the Boy Who Lived on it. I was already in my twenties when I decided to see what all the fuss was about and I was hooked from the very first page. Even after multiple rereads, this series doesn’t disappoint and I still class myself and others I get to know into their respective Houses (I’m Ravenclaw, my hubby is Hufflepuff). I can’t believe there is anyone left who hasn’t read this yet, but I’m jealous of anyone who gets to discover it for the first time. Rowling made fantasy mainstream and no matter what you may think of her personally, she did us all a favour by writing this magical series.

If there are some books on this list you haven’t had the pleasure of reading yet, then what are you waiting for? They all come highly recommended!

(PS: This post contains affiliate links. They don’t cost you any extra, but if you buy something with them I will get a small fee to fuel my reading addiction. Thanks!)

Which fantasy books shaped your reading preferences? Is here anything that you would have added to this list?

My 2019 in Books

According to Goodreads, I’ve read 47 books this year. There are still a few days left in 2019 and I expect that number might go up by one or two more, but let’s work with those 47 for now.

47 feels like a very low number to me. In 2018, I read 62 books, but many of those were free novellas from indie authors, while this year I read more full-length novels. The amount of pages read is about 1500 or so less, so in reality I guess I have been slacking a little bit this year. I don’t really understand why people would challenge themselves to read x number of books though – read as many as you like! Some are short and some are long, some are audio only and others are mostly graphic art, but as long as you do read, it’s all good.

They say your thoughts and ideas are formed by what you read, so let’s have a look at what was bubbling around in my brain in 2019.

(Please note, I’ve added affiliate links to some of these books – they won’t cost you anything extra, but if you decide to buy from the link I’ll get a small commission to help feed my reading habit.)

Books That I Read for Review Purposes

I love that I get paid to read books, but seriously, sometimes I wonder if it’s worth it. Indie publishing means there are no more gatekeepers, but oftentimes those gatekeepers are sorely needed. The books I read for review this year were generally not too bad, thank goodness. One was excellent and one nearly did me in. We’ll see if I continue with this particular time sink next year.

Books by Author Friends

It’s always nerve-wracking to read a book written by a friend – what if I don’t like it? Should I be honest or should I sugarcoat it? Luckily, my friends are all excellent writers! I particularly enjoyed Starheart, A Study of Ash and Smoke, and Last Fight of the Old Hound!

Books on Writing and Marketing

I’m always trying to improve my writing skills, and I’ve discovered a love for book marketing. Most people don’t realise how difficult it is to write a (good) novel! And trying to get other people to actually read it is even more challenging (even more so if they need to pay for it first).

Other Non-Fiction Books

I’m a little disappointed by how short this list is. Reading non-fiction is where I get my ideas from and it fills my creative well, so I’ll definitely need to make it a priority for 2020. I always used to read one book for fun, followed by one book for the mind, but this habit has fallen by the wayside the last few years. Time to implement it again, I think. This year, my favourite non-fiction book was Big Magic and I’d recommend it to any creative in need of some motivation or inspiration.

Books that were Okay

Sometimes books just don’t live up to my expectations. They may have an interesting idea, or great writing or fantastic worldbuilding, but somehow they just disappoint. For me, The Belles was great on almost all counts, except that it didn’t convey the message that the shallow society and its crappy morals are less than ideal. Similarly, I really wanted to like Angelfall (because angels) and Talon (because dragons), but they just didn’t do much for me.

Books that I Liked

I’d recommend every book on this list, either for their great writing, great characters and/or plot, or creativity. They were all fun reads, but just lacked that little something that pushes a book from being good to being great. I was particularly pleased to discover The Mermaid’s Sister, which has beautifully lyrical writing and quirky characters, and the concept of time as a currency in Everless was fascinating.

Books that I Loved

Needless to say, I think you should add all of these books to your TBR pile if you haven’t read them already. The Swan Thieves and The Shadow of the Wind were both riveting, and The First Time I Died was clever and quirky.

My favourite book of 2019 was hands-down Strange the Dreamer – I loved everything about it and it makes me want to quit writing, because I’ll never be as good as this book is.

What was your favourite book this year? Recommend something I have to read in 2020 in the comments below.

April Freebie Month

No, this is not an April Fools joke, although you probably won’t believe your luck when you see what’s in store for you below.

I’ve joined a number of promotions over at Book Funnel and Prolific Works and in all of them you have a plethora of free fantasy, urban fantasy or paranormal books to choose from! No strings attached, you don’t even have to give your email address to an author to get these books. All we ask is that you try them out, see if you like them, and then consider joining our newsletters – I mean, if you enjoyed the book, you’d want to hear more from your new favourite author, am I right?

So without further ado, please click on the image links below and have a look see if there’s anything that interests you. You’d be a fool not to give it a go.

Are you a freebie hunter? Which favourite new author have you discovered this way?

My Five Favourite Dragons in Literature

When someone asks me what my favourite genre is, I always reply with: “As long as it has a dragon in it, I’ll read it.” I don’t know what it is about these scaly reptilians that I love so much, but they fascinate me. Winged, wise and sometimes wicked, I can’t resist a good dragon story.

Hear me roar! © lin wu / ArtStation

So here are five of my favourite dragons. For this list I stuck to named dragons only and I left out any from books that I haven’t read in years and can’t remember well (such as George RR Martin’s dragons in A Song of Ice and Fire), and there are many that probably deserve to be on the list but that I haven’t been acquainted with yet. Most importantly, the dragon has to have personality like any other character to make this list.

Without further ado, here are my top five literary dragons:

Temeraire – Temeraire (Naomi Novik)
Who doesn’t immediately fall in love with the little hatchling that bonds with Captain William Laurence and becomes one of the Aerial Corps’ best fliers? I also love the relationship that develops between dragon and dragon handler throughout the novel and the alternate historical setting in which their story is set.

Kalessin – The Farthest Shore (Ursula le Guin)
The eldest dragon of Earthsea, possibly the creator of the world, who carries Ged on his back and deigns to speaks to both Tenar and Tehanu. Magnificent and daunting, yet kind and trustworthy, Kalessin is what all dragons should be like in my mind.

Falkor – The Neverending Story (Michael Ende)
I have yet to meet a child of the 80’s who doesn’t adore Falkor. The fluffy luckdragon is Bastian’s faithful companion on a quest to save the Childlike Empress. But more importantly, we all just want to cuddle him.

Toothless – How to Train Your Dragon (Cressida Cowell)
I’ll admit, I haven’t read the children’s series yet, and I imagine the story probably differs tremendously from the 2010 animated film (which I adore), but Toothless needed to be on this list. One of my favourite dragons, this night fury is the goofy and fiercely loyal best friend we all wish we had.

Smaug – The Hobbit (JRR Tolkien)
Of course, no list like this would be complete without the real King Under the Mountain, Smaug the Chiefest of Calamaties, the Unassessably Wealthy. Arrogant, vicious, incredibly intelligent and proud, Smaug is probably the most memorable dragon of our times.

And as an added bonus, I’ll add Angharad, the Welsh dragon from Asrai’s Curse, the third installment of my Mythical Menagerie short story series. Why? I guess you’ll have to read and find out…

Did your favourites make the list? If not, let me know about them in the comments below!

(Please note: This post contains affiliate links. It doesn’t cost you anything extra, but if you choose to buy by clicking on a link I will get a small commission to buy more books with. Yay!)

Recommend a Book

All writers started out with a love for reading and I’m no exception.

Some of the best writing advice I’ve been given is to read widely and so I do try to read quite broadly (good chick-lit is one of my guilty pleasures and my Bachelors degree in English has forever instilled an appreciation of the classics within me), but fantasy will always be my first love.

Book love | © Kate Ter Haar / FlickrSince

I know exactly how important word of mouth and book recommendations are, and because I think sharing is caring, I’ve decided to highlight a few of my favourite books in a regular series. If you follow me on Facebook, I try to post a recommendation every Tuesday, so have a look there, and I’ll do a short roundup in a blog post every once in a while.

These recommendations won’t be limited to the fantasy genre, because I think most readers like to read broadly as well, but they will definitely be books that I enjoyed and rated 4 or more stars on Goodreads. I’ll also try to highlight indie authors, but you can expect some traditionally published books to be in the list too.

So without any further ado, here are some books that I loved and I think you should check out if you want to add something to that never-ending TBR list.

High fantasy lovers, here’s an indie book I really enjoyed. It’s not often I give a 5/5 star rating, so you’ll know I mean business with this one. Add Ben S. Dobson to your favourite authors list today. If you like portal fantasy and Arthurian romances, then I think you’ll enjoy this book by Suzannah Rowntree. She has such an amazing style of writing, lyrical and evocative – I loved it! (And her newsletters are pretty interesting too.) I absolutely adore this book! It’s YA and there’s no fantasy in it, but it’s based on The Little Mermaid and is proudly South African, set in Cape Town. Devoured it in one day and scored it 5/5 stars. Joanne Macgregor is one of my favourite local authors. Do yourself a favour and check this one out.

(Please note: This post contains affiliate links. It doesn’t cost you anything extra, but if you choose to buy by clicking on a link I will get a small commission to buy more books with. Yay!)

Have you read any of these recommended books yet? What did you think of them?