Top 25 Best Fantasy Books by Female Authors

The Best Female-Authored Fantasy Novels
Top 25 Fantasy Books by Female Authors |

In the fantasy genre, female authors are notoriously underrepresented, and although a few of their names have become well-known, these are in the minority, especially when compared to their male counterparts. 

This need not be the case, as there are plenty of talented, imaginative female authors writing on alternate worlds, often pushing the boundaries of the genre itself, as many of the books on this list do.

Female authors are more likely to consider themes of importance to women, often placing strong women at the center of their stories, such as the case with many (but not all) of the following books. 

And though the books on this list are here due to the gender of their writers, this is not the only thing that makes them special. All of the novels are great reads aside from who wrote them, with compelling tales, believable characters, and either original, newly created worlds, or new takes on our own. We hope by reading some of the novels below, you'll see that women can write fantastic works of fantasy, whether you’re a fan of coming of age stories, gritty war tales, or epic fantasies.

Today, Ursula K. Le Guin’s magic system may not sound exceptional. Like many, it uses the knowledge of true names to control elements, creatures, and even humans. Consider, however, that this book was published in 1968, yet remains the most interesting execution of the concept. In Earthsea, every magical action has a consequence. Learning it is as much a practice in ethics as it is names, as even the smallest spell can change the world. Stop rain in one part of the world, and another may be hit with terrible storms. As a result, mages must have a deep understanding of the world. Learning an item’s name isn’t enough; the caster must understand how it fits into the bigger picture. As a result, wizards usually specialize. There are healers, enchanters, summoners, and illusionists. Each much consider the balance of the world so as not to upset it unnecessarily. Through the protagonist, Ged, the reader learns what can happen if that warning isn’t heeded. His overconfidence unleashes a terrible shadow upon the world; one that he must learn to both accept, and then defeat.

Books in The Earthsea Cycle Series (5)

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The Lord of the Rings

Similar recommendations: J.R.R.Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings

Riddle-Master of Hed

I also recommend Phillip K. McKillip's wonderful Riddle-Master trilogy, which features similar prose and a similar, though at the same time, very different, story. 

The Swan's War

You might also try Sean Russell's The Swans' War .

The Forgotten Beasts of Eld

This book is a classic with a complex heroine and plenty of subversions. The author is from the same mold as Le Guine.

Lyonesse Trilogy

The Lyonesse Trilogy by the great Jack Vance. Plays quite a few of the same notes as does The Earthsea Cycle: beautiful, poetic writing, well developed complex characters, a magical world steeped in welsh/Celtic mythology that you want to move into, and some deep themes explored.

Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn

Starts with The Dragonebone Chair. From boy to man and from man to hero, this is a remarkable tale that's brimming with detail. It's a story where the journey's end is not the ultimate destination, but the journey itself is.

The Curse of Chalion

The Curse of Chalion won the World Fantasy Award and the author has won Hugos and Nebula awards already for her other series. Beautiful writing, complex characters, deep themes. Something about this book brings to mind A Wizard of Earthsea, even if the plot and story are not at all the same.

Lois McMaster Bujold did not start off writing fantasy, instead rising to fame in the early 1990s as a prolific science-fiction novelist, winning numerous accolades such as the Hugo, Nebula, and Locus awards for her work. With The Curse of Chalion, it became clear she could write just as captivatingly about siege warfare as she could about interstellar intrigue. The novel is her second foray into fantasy, launching the tremendously popular Chalion series, set in a world based on medieval Spain (history buffs will especially enjoy this one). Though the story is told through the eyes of a damaged (male) knight returning home, Bujold does not disappoint with her female characters, especially the princess Iselle, who takes the plight of her arranged marriage and turns it on its head, becoming politically savvy and learning to make the rules of her world work in her favor. No damsels in distress here. For a tremendously satisfying and intricate storyline interwoven with a theology including humanlike gods, pick this one up. Though part of a series, the books stands alone; not that you'd want to skip out on the sequel, Paladin of Souls, which won all the awards that The Curse of Chalion was nominated for. Read if You Like: history, medieval fantasy, mythology

Books in World Of The Five Gods Series (2)

Sybel is 16 years old, and alone in the world, orphaned by her princess mother and her wizard father. Her only goal in life is to maintain the magical animals left to her by her father and to extend the menagerie through her own magic. Without warning, her world is turned upside down when a baby is brought for her to raise, a child who causes Sybel to become entangled in the human world of revenge, war and love. Now, only her beasts can save her from ultimate destruction.Why it's on the listMcKillip manages to make the books' heroes seem like villains and its villains look almost heroic. In fact, every character in this book is perfectly human, and that's not a simple achievement in a genre so replete with well-worn cliches. You will be awestruck by the richness of this world and its' characters. The author is a master of her craft and if you enjoy fantasy or are intrigued by how metaphysical concepts show up in Fantasy this is a book worth reading. The Forgotten Beasts of Eld is a quick read, the story is captivating and it feels fresh and appropriate even though it was published nearly 40 years ago. Most refreshing is that the fate of the world is not what is really at stake, but rather the personal relationships of a sorceress, a nobleman, and a lost prince. This book is simply magical, unforgettable, and truly a delight to read.Read if you likeMagic, Intrigue, metaphysical concepts?
Before famous director, Hayao Miyazaki turned Howl's Moving Castle into an animated film, it was an enchanting novel written by Diana Wynn Jones. This novel follows the life a young girl who is destined, as the eldest of three daughters, to fail if she ever pursues success. In a world where the tropes of most modern fairy tales are accepted ways of life, Jones' protagonist, Sophie, must learn to shape her surroundings instead of being shaped by them. Initially, Jones' Howl's Moving Castle appears to be clichéd. Sophie is cursed by an evil witch before stumbling upon a living, breathing castle inhabited by a wizard called Howl, on the outskirts of the magical Kingdom of Ingary. While this narrative may stay true to many classic tropes of the fantasy genre, such as magic witches and talking objects, Jones' novel features a memorable setting, unique characters and a striking plot. The subtle, Victorian prose, similar to that of novels like Jane Austen, allows the reader to establish a vivid and in depth image of each character. Furthermore, the magical Kingdom of Ingary is perfectly developed, with Jones giving just enough information to build a mental picture while still allowing her readers to run their imaginations wild. While Miyazaki's film and Jones' novel follow the same premise, they differ greatly in plot and characterization, making them almost two entirely different stories. If you've enjoyed either version of this tale, you'll likely enjoy the other as well.

Books in Howl’s Moving Castle Series (2)

How could a story about the apprentice of an assassin not be grimdark? It couldn't, that's how. This first entry sparked off three trilogies about the one protagonist, which contain some of the best characterization ever. The story is about FitzChivalry, the bastard son of a prince, who, an outcast from the court, decides that the best option for him is to sneak around killing people for a living. The book actually never strays into the 'edgy', and is a dark, morally complex tale about a boy whose very existence causes embarrassment for half the court, and as such they hate the poor kid. We're given Fitz's tight point of view from childhood to adulthood, and his complex relationships with those around him, and his growth as a character, lend this book a depth that few have. It's not a book about epic battles, but the growth of an unwanted boy into a man. This extends into eight more books about Fitz, and reading them is like making a life-long friend. One of the best aspects of grimdark fantasy is the morally ambiguous, complex characters, and this is one of the best examples, released before 'grimdark' was even a thing, but possessing all of the required qualities. Read this book if you want to get to know one of the deepest characters in fantasy. Or if you think assassins are cool (which they are).

Books in Farseer Series (2)

I can't do a list of the top 50 fantasy novels with strong female leads without including The Mists of Avalon. Considered one of the great classics of modern fantasy literature, it won the Locus Award for Best Fantasy Novel the year it was published, topped Best Sellers lists for years thereafter, and has continued to transform perspectives for decades. Bradley won critical acclaim with this novel by taking the whole body of Arthurian legend and re-spinning the tale from the perspective of the women in Arthur's life. The Avalon of the title is the island home to a sect of Goddess worshippers attempting to hold back Christianity's growing influence over Arthur and the country at large. This world of mysticism and spirituality frames the life of Morgaine, not an evil sorceress here, but priestess of Avalon and Arthur's half-sister. She rides the tide of self-doubt and confidence as we span her life from practically birth to death. Here lives a haunting Camelot. A visceral, real Camelot that is simultaneously ethereal and mystical. It's not action-packed, but an emotional and compelling legend of adventure, prophesy, romance, betrayal, and witchcraft. The women here are complex, intriguing, loving, and manipulative. They live in a male-dominated world, so behind the scenes they are forever pulling strings, standing close to center stage, but never stepping a foot onto it, weaving their magic in the shadows. If the life of the author matters to you when reading a novel, know that Bradley has some skeletons that have thrown shade over her work.

Books in The Mists Of Avalon Series (2)

This series is epic in every sense of the word. It takes place over many generations, its world is complex and detailed and the quest at the heart of the plot is the kind that legends are made of.Why it made this listIn a discussion of epic fantasy, it would be a sin to leave this series out. Not only are there multiple worlds and characters to keep track of, but there are also plots within subplots within plots.Considering the scope of the series, it wouldn't have been surprising for it to feel all over the place. But Wurts has managed to keep it tight – each new character, story or plot line serves to add depth to the series. There's nothing that feels gratuitous or redundant – a feat that few authors have done as well as she has.Janny Wurts doesn't simplify language. She expects the reader to keep up with her complex style of writing. The language is dense but it never loses focus and always feels precise – as if she's chosen every word carefully. Despite this, her writing is good enough that you'll never feel out of your depth, even though there are a variety of different magic systems, cultures and worlds.As for the epic nature of the series, there's a siege that could rival anything found in the fantasy genre as well as an intense encounter with black magic. There's an endless amount of people and places to keep you occupied. There's something for everyone in this series – in-depth world building, a mastery of history, legendary battles and clashes, three-dimensional characters and a plot that will keep you guessing throughout.

Books in Wars Of Light And Shadow Series (9)

This first installment in the Worldbreaker Saga (the second came out last October) is an epic fantasy with intriguing world(s), an engaging plot, and complex characters. Throughout the 500 plus page novel, Hurley takes world-building to a new level, and challenges the norms of the fantasy genre with her discussions of gender fluidity, alternative marriage and family structures, all within a fascinating and dynamic setting that is a character itself. The book's actual characters, in large part multifaceted women who are neither flawless nor strictly evil, struggle through everything from a world rife with ethnic tensions to the very basic desire of a girl to be reunited with her mother. Be forewarned: this book is dense; after all, it packs in the histories of multiple nations spanning more than one world (don't worry, it comes with a glossary and character guide). And don't get too attached to the characters either… think a Game of Thrones style approach to character safety. But if you're searching for a knock-out novel that pulls you into a magical world of doppelgangers, assassins, blood sacrifices and a whole lot more, pick up The Mirror Empire. You won't be disappointed. Read if You Like: multiple points of view, deep world building, epic fantasy, political plots

Books in Worldbreaker Saga Series (1)

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One of the more interesting fantasy debuts this year by a well-established pedigreed author (she's won some serious awards with two previous HUGO's). It's an interesting take on the epic fantasy genre with solid writing and a highly imaginative world.

The Mirror Empire is one of those few fantasy books that comes along every few years and pushes the boundaries of the genre into a slightly different direction. And for that alone, this book should be lauded.

The author's mashup of a number of different ideas, genres, and even universes, is a breath of fresh air.

However, there are shortcomings a plenty present too. The shift between the two main POV's happens quite often and out of the blue. It's jarring and it ruins the flow and you are left feeling mildly confused as to where you are and what character you are following now (you'll get what I mean when you read the story). Not all the POV's are as well developed as the others. The author does flesh out a few of the characters, but the other characters are really left by the wayside. And by golly, there is an astounding amount of blood, violence, and mayhem. This may or may not be your cup of tea, but the warning is there.

Overall, I must wax lyrical about this book. One of the more interesting and best fantasy books to come out this year -- in my personal top 5. The Mirror Empire holds nothing back, it's a brutal heavy take on the violence and atrocity of warfare: People die, characters die -- often horribly. There are few books I've read with a body count that runs into the hundreds and the thousands -- and this is one of those books. But there is method to all this violence; the book is a sharp look and critique at the horrors of war and all the evils founded on it -- genocide, ethnic cleansing, and brutality. You can certainly read this book and see many real world parallels, especially in the Middle East conflicts and the genocides occurring in Africa.

For a novel that does the novel things and pushes the boundary and spins the genre on its head, for a novel that takes a smart look at the hard things about ware, for a fantasy with a message, and for a fantasy that holds nothing back and combines different genres, ideas, with some serious action and worldbuilding ideas, the Mirror Empire must be read.

Ash: A Secret History is one of the few novels on this list with ties to the present world, framed from the start and throughout as a story a historian finds in dusty manuscripts. Gentle is so serious about her writing and creating an authentic world that she got a Master's degree in War Studies in order to write this novel. The historical portion of the novel follows Ash, a woman in the 15th century who is guided by a mysterious Voice and gets involved in real historical wars retold with magical elements. Ash is a shrewd mercenary whose imperfections only make her more admirable as she navigates her world with a toughness that at times might seem cruel. The novel itself, in its 1000+ pages, can often come across that way as well, with a gritty edginess that comes with the very real portrayal of war in the Middle Ages. Though it may seem long, the plot twists and turns, with unexpected elements like artificial intelligence and transvestites that will keep you reading all the way to the unexpected ending. Read if You Like: alternate history, medieval Europe
Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell is an epic tale of the rebirth of magic in nineteenth-century England. Taking place among the regular historical occurrences of the time, the main difference between this world and ours is that magic is real and works. Rather – it did work, until everyone began to study the theory of magic instead of doing magic.But then, to everyone's great surprise, emerges Mr. Norrell, a magician who can do magic. He takes society by storm when he brings a young woman back from the dead and becomes one of the main reasons Napoleon hasn't overrun the British navy. Then, Jonathan Strange shows up. Another gentleman, who also practices real magic, he becomes the pupil of Mr. Norrell. Magic is disputed, and two great magical minds fight against a background of evil fairies, high kings, and the spirit of sorcery in England.Why it's on the listSusanna Clark managed to write an entirely enjoyable novel. Her expert use of diction helped create a unique tone that makes any reader consume the book as fast as possible.Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell has it all: memorable and richly drawn characters, vivid setting, poignant atmosphere, action, adventure, humor, horror, and writing that is pitch perfect on every page. You will also like the fact that it's long - when a story is this enchanting you want the experience to last a while.This novel defies comparison to any other novels; it's in a class by itself. But if someone was to compare it to something else it'd probably be most accurate to compare it to something written in the 19th century, like Dickens. The story ends in a satisfying way and in one that's true to its internal logic, but Clarke leaves just enough unfinished to provide the perfect premise for a future novel.

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Fantasy about Magicians and Magic Schools...

The Night Circus

For a poignant story about competing magicians with a similar feel to it in tone and writing, read The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern. Fantastic book and perhaps the CLOSEST similar read to Susanna Clarke's work that I've found. Definitely literary in tone and style. 

The Magicians 

A remarkable trilogy by Lev Grossman that subverts many of the fantasy tropes. It also features a precise and detailed breakdown of a magic system that's internally consistent. If you like the emphasis on learning magic following consistent rules, with a captivating story, awesome prose, and many deep themes explored, then The Magician is the best you are going to find. Arguably labeled as literary fantasy, though not so high brow that you can't enjoy it if you like more low-brow style fantasy (i.e. Sanderson books).

Moontide Magic Rise

Want more good books about 'magicians'? You may also find that you like Sean Russell's Moontide Magic Rise duology. It's kind of the same premise: magic has vanished from the world, a couple of people are trying to bring magic back to the world, etc. In my opinion, this is the closest book/series that you'll find to Susanna Clarke's work. 


Magician by Raymond E. Feist. If you want to forego all the literary aspects of fantasy and just opt to a straightforward classic style fantasy about a coming of age with a young boy becoming a powerful magician, then you could also read the standard epic village boy to might magician in Feist's Magician.

Literary Fantasy (fantasy with deep themes and beautiful writing):

The Golem and the Jinni

The Golem and the Jinni. Another book you may just enjoy if you like fantastical tales that are touching and incredibly well written. Definitely considered literary fantasy. 

Tooth & Claw

TOOTH & CLAW by Joe Walton. Dragons living in a Victorian Society? I dare you to try it! Read if you like the rich Victorian fantasy setting present int Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell.


For an epic fantasy series about fairies, you could read Shadowmarch by Tad Williams. There's lots of little folklore tales about fairies and elder creatures scattered throughout the story -- something that Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell has in abundance.

Good Omens

Good Omens by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchet. There's a lot of Brtitishness to this novel that you might just like if you liked Clarke's work.


If you like the slow pedantic pace of Clarke's work, the intense focus on characters and descriptions which almost seem to the point of excess but (finally) a fully realized magical world and with a gripping plot by the end of it, look no further than the majestic Gormenghast books.

Lord Dunsany

For the rich use of the English language, read Lord Dunsany's magnificent The King of Elfland's Daughter. This is one of those proto-fanasy classics in the genre that few have read.

Dying Earth

Jack Vance Dying Earth series. Science Fantasy, but oh god the use of the English language.

The Stolen Child

Are you a fan of fairies in a fantasy tale? Another book that deals with old fairy folk tales is Keith Donohue's The Stolen Child. A novel about the search for identity, The Stolen Child makes for a compelling read. The Stolen Child, like Susanna Clarke's work, is very well written. These books are sort of your "out of the box" fantasy. It's quite refreshing to see the fantasy genre has more to it than epic fantasy.

Comparisons to George R. R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire series abound when discussing Kushiel's Dart, but this novel isn't what you would think of as typical fantasy; it's much more focused on the sex, which is explicit throughout. However, it's still as chock-full of political intrigue and nuanced characters as any fantasy tale. Taking place on a slightly different version of the Earth we know, Phèdre nó Delaunay is a servant sold to a nobleman who realizes she's been marked by the gods. Phèdre's fate is to be a courtesan, special because of the bond she feels between pain and pleasure. There's more to the plot than just BDSM, though; Phèdre acts as both courtesan and spy, which leads her on a quest to save her country. From humble beginnings, she uses her cunning, loyalty, and compassion to become diplomat, spymaster, and an incredible tactician. With a strong female lead and extensive world-building, Jacqueline Carey's novel won the 2002 Locus Award and was nominated for the 2002 Gaylactic Spectrum Awards. If you're not afraid of some graphic sex, pedophilia, and abuse, definitely check out this first book in the Kushiel's Universe series.
The Napoleonic Wars seem to be an especially fascinating era for writers; this series is the second on the list set in this time period at the turn of the 19th century. His Majesty's Dragon, the first in the Temeraire series, takes place in an alternate version of the world where intelligent dragons are used as military air forces in both Asia and Europe.The books center on the dragon Temeraire and his handler, Will Lawrence, who fight on the side of British forces, Lawrence having become a dragonrider when an egg unexpectedly falls into his hands. Lawrence, originally part of the Naval Corps, must learn to navigate the very different world of the Aerial Corps of which he has just joined, while at the same time rearing his dragon and teaching him about the world. This development of the curious bond between dragon and rider is one of the strengths of this book, with fans reveling in their humorous and heartwarming interactions.While the book may not contain many female characters, the ones that do exist are progressive for their time, riding dragons themselves. There is no ‘good vs. evil' battle here, which many fantasy fans may find refreshing, letting themselves instead imagine what the world could have been like if dragons existed.Read if You Like: dragons, alternate history, military fiction

Books in Temeraire Series (10)

This Hugo and Nebula nominee goes outside the realm of traditional fantasy in a blend of steampunk and dark magic. All too often, fantasy focuses on human protagonists, or half-elves/faeries. Maia is a little more exotic, the subject of an arranged marriage between human and elf. He's considered an abomination, but unfortunate circumstances lead to the young prince reluctantly taking the throne. What follows is a book of politics, intrigue, and friendship. Maia isn't the usual perfect, arrogant protagonist. He's kind and extremely likable. As he's thrust into having more responsibilities, he has to learn many things. Social skills, dancing, ruling, and, importantly, his own worth. There's no huge scale battles here, no needless action sequences, and that's what makes it special. Addison manages to weave an entertaining story of political intrigue and mystery through her characters alone. There's little romance, little magic. It's entirely about the personal journey. Read if you like: Steampunk, political fantasy.
Say what you may, but on a list of fantasy books with female authors, J.K. Rowling, likely the most popular female fantasy author of all time, can hardly be left out. The Harry Potter series created engaged, imaginative readers out of an entire generation, thanks to Rowling's intricate and well-fleshed out world within a steaming train's ride of our own. Rowling draws a lot upon mythology in her work, including mythological animals like hippogriffs, character names, and incorporating the story lines of myths themselves into various plots and subplots, giving the so-called children's book a depth not usually found in books this easy to read. Adults that didn't read the series growing up might shy away from starting this series later in life, but this would be a mistake.The series belongs on this list especially for its strong female characters, most prominently Hermione Granger and Professor McGonagall, both highly intelligent women who steer the Harry (and others) back on track when they go astray. Bottom line though, the books are transporting, enjoyable reads that will unleash the imagination of readers of any age.Read if You Like: coming of age stories, wizards and witches, mythology
It was in the 80s that the subgenres of fantasy we know today started. One of these – urban fantasy – owes much of its development from War for the Oaks, which was one of the titles that pioneered it. If this is the only reason you decide to give it a try, you'll find it's time well spent.Why it made the list Some authors get so caught up in their own worlds that they can't bring themselves to the level of the reader when explaining the details of their creation. When this happens, the explanations they provide can seem patronizing. Bull never does this to the reader. Instead, she gives you enough information to understand the War for the Oaks universe, but trusts that you have the intelligence to fill in the blanks. In doing away with the overly condescending and lengthy descriptions that many fantasies are plagued with, action and character development are given all the attention.Bull's writing style is uncomplicated but not overly simple, making it easy to read. She's an excellent storyteller and – maybe because she draws on things that she experienced in real life – the magic elements feel as much a part of our reality as her tales about being in a rock band. Can you really think of anything more entertaining than a rock musical with faeries? That's what Bull has created here.You should already be convinced that this deserves some attention. But if you need another reason to do so, then the characters in War of the Oaks are it. Eddi, the main protagonist, is easy to like but it's the faerie Phouka – a shape changing, mischievous Prince lookalike – that makes this book so much fun to read.

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What can I

possibly recommend for faerie-related novels. Quite frankly,there's a zillion fantasy books about fairies, from romantic ones to dark horror ones, to sappy Twilight teeny-bopper series. I'll recommend the best I've stumbled across.

For the closest book

I've read that's similar to War for the Oaks, give Holly Black's Tithe: A Modern Faerie Tale a good read. It's an edgy, intensely gritty modern faerie tale that should satisfy Emma Bull fans who those who want a darker sort of story. Ostensibly, it's a YA book (the protagonist is 16), but it's so dark and jaded, I don't see how that's the case.

For another

girl-versus-urban-faeries-and-finds-self-empowerment tale, you can give the Wicked Lovely series a read. This one is less dark than Holly Black's Tithe and it's several books long. Women who love romance will especially like the series.

If you like

that deal with individuals getting caught up in Faery court wars, Jim Butcher's The Dresden Files feature a wizard who keeps getting mixed up with Faerie politics (especially the fourth book in the series, Summer Knight, which is only about Faerie politics and intrigue).

For an interesting

take on the whole Faerie mythos (about a boy who is stolen away from his parents and forced to live with Faeries) read Keith Donohue's The Stolen Child.

The Golden Key is the only book on this list with multiple authors (and three of them at that), perhaps because such works have a tendency to be disjointed, a result of the difficulty caused by attempting to meld multiple authors' differing styles. This isn't the case here, with each author writing one section of the three part book (Jennifer Roberson wrote the first, Melanie Rawn wrote the second, and Kate Elliott wrote the third). Tying the three stories together is a unifying plot, following two forever interconnected families whose histories are recorded using paintings instead of words. The Grijalva family of gifted painters guide events around them according to their desires, while the royal do'Verradas rule Tira Virte, the story's country of focus, a country which is in many ways an alternate version of Spain. The novel spans multiple generations over the course of 400 years, but mostly follows the main characters, Sario and his beloved cousin Saavedra, both gifted members of the Grijalva family. Creative readers will love this intricately woven story where art is magic, and the protagonist is in fact an antihero who often goes too far in the pursuit of what he wants. While each of the three authors intended to write another novel in this world, only Melanie Rawn has done so in her book The Diviner, a prequel to The Golden Key which was published in 2011. Read if You Like: art, magic, complex characters and relationships, family sagas, deep world-building, antiheros
The story opens with a moderately well-to-do family gathering at the deathbed of their father, and fighting over the inheritance - not his gold hoard, which has been divided equitably, but what portion each of his children and their spouses will get to eat of his dead carcass. And if all this talk of eating puts you off, don't worry, it is not at all gory, and treated as an entirely reasonable part of dragon life, and indeed, the only way that dragons can grow is by consuming dragon-flesh. This comedic story deals with one family's quest to grow, nurture and establish themselves properly in society, and of course find true love.Why it's on the listThis is a fun, charming book. Imagine Jane Austen with dragons. The culture of dragons depicted is not merely a mirror of Victorian culture with dragons substituted for people; it is a fun re-imagining of dragon lore with subtle plotlines.Although it tackles familiar themes of love and courtship, class equality, revenge, and moral obligation, Tooth and Claw explores these through a different lens, creating a remarkable and entertaining reading experience.Read if you likeElizabethan mash-ups, comedy, dragons

Books in Frank Frazetta's Death Dealer Series (4)

Set in the same world as her bestselling The Book of Words trilogy, A Cavern of Black Ice is the first book in the separate Sword of Shadows series. This gritty novel follows the stories of its two stubborn main characters, Ash, and Raif, both of whom are a little different from the world in which they live. Ash is locked away by her adopted father, tormented by reoccurring nightmares for which she has no explanation. Meanwhile, Raif is a fiercely loyal member of the Hailsmen tribe who begins to question that loyalty as certain things come to light about his clan. The novel unravels slowly in a stark, cold climate, the perfect backdrop for the types of visceral scenes that Jones describes in often agonizing detail. Readers will enjoy the dark magical elements, multiple characters (Raif's sister and uncle also play prominent roles) and sweeping epic fantasy not normally written by a female author. Although Jones isn't as well-known as some of her fantasy counterparts, her work is well worth a read, and has even been compared to the likes of popular fantasy authors George R.R. Martin and Robin Hobb. Read if You Like: deep world-building, epic fantasies, magic, multiple character plotlines, heroes who suffer a lot

Books in Sword Of Shadows Series (5)

First book in The Inheritance Trilogy, The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms centers on the novel's narrator, Yeine, granddaughter of the ruler of the world. Yeine suddenly is named heir to this throne, despite the fact that she grew up outside of the political arena, and arrives in the floating city of Sky only to be immediately thrust into the middle of a struggle for power. She remains concerned with her own agenda though: uncovering the mysterious circumstances surrounding her mother's sudden death. As a black woman interested in racial and cultural tensions, Jemisin's captivating fantasy world is also rife with conflict between races, albeit those of gods, demons, and mortals. Her unique characters are driven by emotion, politics and other very believable motives, imperfect gods included. There's a lot to keep track of here, from the various settings to the cast of characters, but it never feels overwhelming. At the center of it all, Yeine, an emotionally complex and likeable heroine, will weave her way easily into reader's hearts. The trilogy is already completed, so no need to wait for subsequent novels if you end up loving this one. Read if You Like: political intrigue, family sagas, first person POV, deep world building, racial conflict, mythology romance

Books in The Inheritance Series (6)

In Wecker's debut novel, two very unusual immigrants arrive, separately, in 19th century immigrant New York. These two characters are (unsurprisingly) a golem named Chava, created by a Jewish rabbi in Poland, and Ahmad, a jinni originating in ancient Syria. Their chance meeting ends up sparking an unusual yet believable friendship of polar opposites, and the strength of the novel is undoubtedly their conversations on a variety of subjects including free will, desire, and of course their differing reactions to dealing with the isolating struggles of being inhuman in a human world. The resulting story is a multiple award winning novel where magic exists in a historical space, a novel where the characters grow and change as result of select incidents and resulting introspection. For example, Chava is an unusual character in that she is a woman containing decidedly (for the time) unwomanly characteristics such as strength and the ability to protect others around her. Her time and circumstances limit her ability to use these powers however, and she must learn to live within these societal restrictions so as not to draw attention to herself. Any female reader will easily emphasize with her struggle.Fans of the book will be please to know that Wecker recently announced a sequel, due out in 2018.Read if You Like: mythology, historical fiction, immigrant stories, romance, folklore

Similar Recommendations

For stories about myths and legends come to life and interacting with humans:
  • American Gods by Neil Gaimen
  • Mythago Wood
  • The Anubis Gates by Tim Power
  • Ysabel by Guy Gaverial Kay
  • American Elsewhere by Robert Jackson
For beautiful, poignant literary fantasy with deep themes, strong writing, and complex characters:
  • The Night Circus
  • The Stolen Child
  • Ghormenghast
  • Tigana
  • The Wizard Knight 
  • Rise of Moontide and Magic
  • Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell
  • Perdido Street Station
See our Best Literary Fantasy Books for more of the literary type fantasy recommendations
One of the more recently published novels on this list, Queen of the Tearling has elicited strong reactions; this seems to be one of those love it or hate it books. The premise may seem somewhat familiar: a princess must claim her thrown after the unexpected death of her mother, as well as combat the evil sorceress who attempts to dethrone her. Yet the book is so much more than that, and far from being a traditional princess, the main character, Kaleigh, is one that changes significantly over the course of the novel. She starts off as a timid girl with low self-confidence who must suddenly learn how to rule when the job of Queen is thrust upon her. Critics may dislike her initially weak character, but it only makes her growth more believable as she truly comes into her own. The setting, while not as deeply developed as some other fantasy epics, is perhaps more intriguing for that, leaving readers to wonder what is really going on in this somewhat dystopian but at the same time medieval world. With a movie adaptation both starring and produced by Emma Watson as well as the second novel of the planned trilogy in the works, it's clear that Johansen isn't going anywhere anytime soon. Read if You Like: fairytales, coming of age stories, good vs. evil
Warning: get ready to commit if you enjoy this stories; The True Game series is not just a trilogy, it's a trilogy of trilogies. This unique delivery of her story, comprising of a short novels instead of longer ones, makes for a pleasurable, if different reading experience. Each of the novels follows a certain character, with the second two series centering on female characters Jinian and Mavin (the first centers on the coming of age of the boy Peter, Mavin's son). A self-described ‘eco-feminist', her work is concerned with both of these themes, and without giving too much away from the story, the novels could also be considered crossing over to science fiction. In her world, the Lands of the True Game, humans have developed various abilities, such as shapeshifting, the ability to see the future, and telepathy, just to name a few. Wizards also exist in this world in which the characters must play games in order to survive.While the first series could benefit from a tighter writing style, Tepper's world and imagination truly shines, drawing readers in for more.Read if You Like: magic, wizards, space exploration
While Tamora Pierce's novels are mainly marketed towards younger readers, her Song of the Lioness series is still a worthwhile read, especially if you're looking for a break from some of the darker and denser suggestions on this list. In the series, started in the first book, Alanna: The First Adventure, the protagonist, Alanna, ditches dresses to don britches and masquerade as her twin brother, Thom, in order to train as a knight. The book is a good deal shorter than many other fantasy tomes, with Pierce choosing her words carefully and packing in the action. The story is set in Tortall, unsurprisingly very much like medieval Europe, but with its own unique touches, and of course, a good deal of magic. Readers will love the plucky and stubborn Alanna, perhaps even seeing themselves in the young heroine. The plot is a straight forward, good vs. evil story, which critics may take issue with. But for a lighthearted and fast book for a rainy Sunday afternoon, Alanna perfectly fits the bill. Read if You Like: young adult novels, coming of age stories, magic, swordplay, medieval Europe, romance, character driven stories

Books in Song Of The Lioness Series (3)

The King's Dragon, first in the seven volume fantasy epic by Kate Elliott (pen name of Alis A. Rasmussen), combines political intrigue with heroics set in Novaria, a world heavily based on medieval Europe, with fictional countries corresponding quite directly with actual ones. The plot centers on two characters: Alain, a young man with a mysterious background thrown onto the battlefield, and Liath, a young woman who gets trapped into an unfortunate situation, and must find her way out. The storyline is typical to others in the epic fantasy genre, one of political strife both inside and outside of the kingdom, yet Elliott skillfully weaves her story so as not to feel cumbersome for readers of the genre. Elliott herself has a background in archaeology as well as medieval sword-fighting, so it's no wonder that she describes the history and action as well as she does, creating an intricate world with humanlike beings, a new religion, and a believable magic system.It's this deep world-building that has drawn the attention of others, for good reason. Sci-fi master Orson Scott Card has significantly praised her work multiple times, saying on his blog that she is "one of the best world creators in fantasy literature."Read if You Like: epic fantasy, dragons, medieval Europe, deep world-building, historical fiction, magic
Though The Privilege of the Sword is actually the second in a series, the witty and intelligent novel does well a highly praised stand-alone, winner of the Locus award and nominated for both World Fantasy awards and Gaylatic awards. The novel starts out with naïve, teenage heroine Katherine, who moves from the countryside to live with her uncle in the city, where she meets a host of women whose lives are controlled by men. Luckily for her, she escapes out of the cycle of marriage and enters training to become a swordsman, dressing like a man, and more often than not, being perceived as one, a scenario that all women have (let's face it) imagined at some point.Though the novel does receive some demerits for an abrupt ending, this is still a fun read, especially if you'd like a break from magic interfering with everything, as this one has none.Read if You Like: coming of age stories, gender-bending, swordplay