Top 25 Best Fantasy Books Since 2010

The Best 'Modern' Fantasy Books of the Past Five Years
Revolutionizing Magic: Top 25 Fantasy Books of the New Decade

Sometimes you don't want to wade through older books when picking out your next selection of best fantasy to read. As impacting and awesome as some of the older 'greats' are, it does get a bit tiring seeing 'Lord of the Rings', Malazan Book of the Fallen, The Black Company, The Name of the Wind, and Game of Thrones tossed on pretty much every best fantasy list ever made and posted to the web somewhere.

The solution was pretty easy: cook up a list of the best books that have been published the past five years (2010+). And exactly this did I do. I've carefully selected what I feel are the best, most significant fantasy reads to come out the past four/five years. So you can think of this as a "Best Fantasy of the Past Half Decade' list.

Note...this ONLY includes books and series that have been published from 2010 to the present (2014/2015). Any series that was published before 2010 but has had books released the past couple years won’t be shown. So if you folks leave angry comments asking why Lord of the Rings or some other book PUBLISHED BEFORE 2010 has not been included on this list, I'm going to be angry :)

Do keep this list updated by adding your own suggestions in the comments!

School fantasy is often aimed at children, and it's very successful at hitting that market. It's much harder to appeal exclusively to adults, and that's where The Magicians shines. Rather than the typical twelve-year-old protagonist, it tells the story of a high-school student not yet aware of his powers. Quentin Coldwater is obsessed with fantasy books, an outcast, and somewhat depressed. When given the opportunity to study magic, he jumps on it, but quickly learns it’s not as fun as it seems. In The Magicians, spells are hard. Learning magic is tedious and requires background knowledge of language and history. Quentin finds himself frustrated at his progress, no longer the prodigy he used to be. From there, the book only gets darker. The antagonist has no mercy, magic can kill simply through accidents, and drug use is rife. Lev Grossman stands in stark defiance of convention, refusing to sugar-coat magic and creates a tense and compelling story as a result.

Books in The Magicians Series (2)

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Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell

You might want to give Susan Clarke's Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell a read. Like Lev Grossman's The Magicians, it's a story about magic in a world that supposedly has no magic. Both novels veer from the usual fantasy conventions, weighing in as more than just "fantasy." I like to call these "literary fantasy." This novel, however, heralds back to the Victorian era and features a more conventional sort of story (that borrows heavily from the likes of a Jane Austen novel in language an description) and is NOT a postmodern take on the fantasy genre that The Magicians is.

The Night Circus

For another novel about Magicians in training, you might like The Night Circus. It's about two young magicians locked in deadly conflict trying to outperform the other who are both part of a magical circus. It's a rich and intoxicating read, most decidedly literary and one of the best fantasy books of 2011.

Harry Potter

Harry Potter. Yes, if you like The Magicians, read Harry Potter  the titular character who is deconstructed by Grossman and reformed into a far more complex and troubled and fallible version as the character Quinton.

The Wizard of Earthsea

If we are going to follow that rabbit down the rabbit hole into the dark and murky literary past, seeking the origin of boy-goes-to-magic school to become a wizard, we might as well get to one of the sources. If Potter made it a pop culture thing, then Ursula Le Guine helped bring it alive like no other author. Yes, I'm talking about The Wizard of Earthsea. Before there was Harry Potter, there was Ged.

Ocean at the End of the Lane

Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaimen. One thing I love about The Magicians is it moves the simpler children's fiction into the adult realm with an adult perspective. It's Narnia for grown-ups.One book about that perfectly captures the child realm but transforms it for adults is Gaimen's Ocean at the End of the Lane. Thematically, Gaimen does the same thing as Grossman. While both works are completely different in scope and plot, they do take a child's perspective but remake it for an adult which changes it.

The Secret History

The Secret History by Donna Tart. Not specifically fantasy per say, but the writing and tone, and characterization are somewhat similar. A young group of students at a college discover another way to think about their life and the ramifications of this change everything about how they live.


Anathem by Neal Stephenson. A science fiction story about a young boy who's a sort of monk and finds out the wider world is a complicated place.

Narnia & Alice in Wonderland

The Magicians alludes to a number of popular fantasy classics. Alice in Wonderland is one such work and The Chronicles of Narnia. In fact, if you dig down a bit, The Magican books are a postmodern version of Narnia with the friendly animals revealed to be monsters.

Understandably, some readers prefer series more epic in their nature, and Sanderson also has that covered. Though it’s magic systemsaren’t quite as compelling as in Mistborn, The Stormlight Archive is stillup there with the best. Stormlight, a magical energy, comes from a huge storm that circles the Earth in the same direction.  That energy is absorbed by gemstones, fought over by armies and able to power almost indestructible armor that enhances the user’s strength. However, also able to harness Stormlight are those known as Surgebinders. With an intake of breath, they can channel the energy, but need a constant source as fuel. Because of this, gemstones become even more important, allowing them to breathe in stored Stormlight at any time. Users gain not only supernatural strength and speed, but the ability to ‘lash’. By doing so, they can adjust gravity, burn, manipulation friction, create illusions, and more. The system is incredibly complex, but Sanderson walks readers through, introducing elements as and when required. As a result, his world is a joy to explore, and it’s joined by some science and engineering, too. Fabrials are complex devices that use gemstones to serve a purpose. Augmenters, for example, can create heat or movement, while diminishers can reduce pain or wind. All of the magic systems are tied together by overarching concepts, which slowly unfold and impress as the story continues.

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Mark Lawrence doesn’t use an abundance of technical explanations and diagrams, but that doesn’t make his magic system any less interesting. In fact, it lets him focus on his astonishing world-building and its unusual elements. The world in this series is, in essence, a never-ending cycle. Reality is created by what citizens believe in. Their beliefs create gods, and those gods influence their beliefs, altering them once more. This hole, in reality, lets humans influence the world and use magic. Traditional magic users appear. Those who can control fire, necromancers and seers; but all have a price. Each time magic is used the barrier between life and death gets weaker, potentially opening the floodgates. However, despite these elements, there are hints of a relatively normal past. Lawrence’s world is just as compelling in its discovery as it is its execution, and his magic system is a huge part of that.

Books in The Broken Empire Series (2)

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The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant the Unbeliever

We can't talk about antiheroes in a fantasy world without mentioning The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant the Unbeliever. The series is older (a few decades) but a fantasy classic, with one of the original fantasy antiheroes who just does bad shit part of the time and is a general dick. Then he gets better with time.

The Black Company

A similar kind of vibe: a dark and gritty dilapidated world that feels like it's dying; a cast of morally gray characters (though on the darker shade of gray) who do bad shit over and over because 'they like it'; and a company of mercenaries. See some of the similarities? I would hazard a guess here and say Lawrence was heavily inspired by Cook. It's a guess that was wrong. Mark Lawrence recently tweeted us saying he's not yet read Cook. Either way, if you like The Black Company, you'll find yourself at home with Lawrence's The Broken Empire books. 

Scourge of the Betrayer 

This one by Jeff Salyards takes a lot of the same gritty tendencies of Lawrence's work. There's a company of amoral solders on a quest to just fuck shit up in other kingdoms on orders from their emperor. This book is the closest I've come so far to Lawrence's style of story telling. Salyards is one of my new favorite authors and a rising star in the genre. Absolutely read him if you love Lawrence's Broken Empires.

First Law

Joe Abercrombie's books, oh yes very similar. Start with First Law trilogy. Gritty world, sharp, witty, and sarcastic prose with the same type of characters. Abercrombie's protagonists are more heroes though than villains, for the most part, though you can find a few that fit the role of an antihero. Best Served Cold and Heroes are books that feel the closest in style and tone, with Best Served Cold featuring a band of mercenaries seeking to overthrow a government -- somewhat similar of a plot to Prince of Thrones.

Elric of Melinbone

Give Elric of Melnibone by Michael Moorcock a read. A classic that's criminally ignored. One of the original fantasy antiheroes, way back decades ago. Dark fantasy, lyrical prose, and a bad ass hero who's partly a villain.

Among Thieves

Among Thieves (Tales of the Kin, #1) . One of the best assassin/thief/spy fantasy books right now. It's got the ghettos and grittiness of Prince of Thorns, though the hero is not an antihero. I suspect you will like this series if you like Prince of Thorns.

A Promise of Blood

Flintlock fantasy with a bang. Not the same style story, but full of violence, blood, and grit. You'll probably like A Promise of Blood. I do.

Heroes Die

Caine, a bad-ass antihero assassin. Dirty world without hope. Lots of death and violence. Great writing. Read it and be wowed. Heroes Dieis some of the best fantasy you'll read.

A Song of Ice and Fire series

Starts with A Game of Thrones. Yea, I had to drop this in. The gritty setting, the troubled characters, the struggle for power among kingdoms. The undead coming back to haunt the living. See some of the similarities here? Word is though, book 6 is coming out 2016 NOT 2015.

The title is a bit tongue-in-cheek, as Abercrombie himself describes it this way: "Three men. One battle. No heroes." It was designed to be a standalone novel, but is set in the world of The First Law. The entire novel transpires during a three-day battle between the North and the Union.  In true Abercrombie style, The Heroes is a bloodbath full of wit and dark humor. Far from the typical heroic fantasy, good doesn't prevail over evil; in fact I'm not sure any of these dudes could really classify as "good," but you are invested in them either way. This rough, thrilling ride features realism done well. Full of jealousy, revenge, and recklessness, we follow their adventures, exposing the gory truth of both war and human nature.

Books in First Law World Series (6)

The Red Knight and the Traitor Son Cycle it begins are the most historically-accurate depictions of medieval-era warfare that I've ever read. In fact, if you want to continue enjoying military fantasy as a whole, don't read this book, since it will make everything else seem silly (Where is that knight's squire and retinue of retainers? How the hell did that guy get into his plate armour so fast? Why does that army have no camp followers? What about their supply lines?). Miles Cameron is actually a pen-name for Christian Cameron, a man almost ridiculously qualified to write military fantasy. He has a BA in Medieval History with honors and served in the United States Navy. As if that wasn't enough, he is an experienced re-enactor of medieval and classical battles. This is a man who knows what it feels like to cop a sword-blow to the helmet, and his writing shows it. Even the depiction of magic is based upon how people once thought magic might actually work. The novel follows the titular Red Knight, the leader of a mercenary company that is hired to defend an Abbey from the monstrous forces of 'the Wild'. Cameron is dedicated to depicting warfare realistically (even if it is against monsters), and when you hit someone with a mace, he demonstrates that the results are not exactly pretty. There are plenty of splintered bones, snapped tendons and torn-out throats.Read this book if:you like historical fiction, or want a story about how a medieval army would actually work. Also, cool monsters.

Books in The Traitor Son Cycle Series (6)

This is one of the more non-traditional fantasy, literary picks on this list, but don't be scared off: The Genie and the Golem is one of the most heart-warming, touching novels you'll likely read. It's hard to categorize this fantasy specifically. If I had to take a stab at it, I'd say its part fantasy, part historical fiction. This is a story of an unlikely friendship between two fish out of water characters who don't quite get along but need each other. And it's in that relationship between these two characters, of the need for companionship overpowering the desire to be alone, that the author spins a lovely tale. The story is set in the early 20th century New York and introduces to a modern setting some old fairy tale creatures we all know and love. Think of it as an adult fable.It's a wonderful, lyrical tale that touches on deep themes but never gets lost in being too thematic or literary that you can't enjoy the tale for what it is: a heartwarming, heart-tugging tale about two very different friends who need each other to survive. One of the best literary fantasy works to come out the past decade. If you are a fan of Margret Atwood, Guy Gaverial Kay or Susanna Clarke you'll especially love this book. Or if you want a heartwarming fantasy tale that doesn't involve heroes trying to slay demon dark lords or save kingdoms.
A powerful story that deals with themes of childhood, innocence, and growing up. What's particularly powerful is Gaiman's ability to harness feelings that most of us, as children, have experienced at one time.Ocean At The End of The Lane is an adult fairy tale, short but oh so sweet. It brings to mind those days lived a child, recapturing that childhood wonder and imagination that's lost with adolescence. But this is through and through an adult tale, not a child's one with stark serious themes beneath the childlike veneer used to frame the story surface.It's a story about a young boy who discovers a magical world behind the facade of the lovely English countryside he occupies, a world full of amazing sights, faeries, vivid adventures, and, as our child protagonist finds out, deadly dangers too. Gaiman vividly tells a story where terrible things can and do happen to the very young and the very innocent -- qualities that do not shield from the harsh realities of life.A clever book that juggles the supernatural and the natural, showing a supernatural terror impinging on the natural order of the boy's existence, overturning his former idyllic and carefree bucolic life. But beyond the supernatural threat to the boy's childhood innocence is the stark theme of innocence lost, of families being destroyed, and leaving that tricky space of innocent childhood to find the wider world waiting with all its harsh realities.Basically, it's a bloody good tale that scares as much as it entertains with deep themes beneath. A brilliant stand alone and one of the best books of 2013.

On paper, this is the perfect setup for a grand fantasy novel: Guy Gavriel Kay (Tigana, The Fionavar Tapestry, Lions of Al-Rassan) applies his considerable literary talent to crafting an alternate fantastical China, loosely based on 8th century China during the Tang Dynasty. This is the China you’ve always dreamed of: deadly ghosts that haunt battle fields, ninja assassins and brutal warriors, conniving kings and traitorous royal families. From start to finish, Under Heaven is an epic journey of one unremarkable man who becomes something remarkable. It’s haunting, beautiful, and a tale that will stick with you after you’ve turned the last page. Kay is one of the best wordsmiths in the fantasy genre; every book he puts out features delicious prose; this man knows how to write beautiful English prose and Under Heaven keeps with his high standards of writing. Highly recommended.

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More Books by Kay

For other alternative history with the same lyrical style and emphasis on historical detail, though altered to fit a fantastical version of them, check out Kay's other books. You absolutely want to read the direct sequel to Under Heaven, River of Stars. which was released this year (2014). It's not as masterful as the first, but a very good read indeed and more of the same. The Fionvar Tapestry, Kay's version of Lord of the Rings. Last Light of the Sun is Kay's foray into Norse history and culture and an outstanding read. Lions of Al Rassan is a tragic yet powerful tale about a painter who's get caught up with the affairs of an Empire (Kay's take on Roman history). Song of Arbonne is a beautiful and haunting tale about two jongleurs. Ysabel is Kay's YA version of American Gods.

The Name of the Rose

Umberto Eco's The Name of the Rose. In many ways Under Heaven stands next to this great masterpiece on equal footing. Both are historical fiction with outstanding narratives.

Brother Initiate

If you like the whole fantastical mythical Asia, you should read Sean Russel's Brother Initiate. Russell in a lot of ways is similar to Kay both are outstanding writers who relish beautiful prose. Russell's work is more along the lines of a traditional fantasy, just using the trappings of ancient Chinese culture for the tale. The hero of his tale is a fighting monk and the tale is more heroic about heroes with amazing abilities who impact the fate of a kingdom. 

The Long Price Quartet

The Long Price Quartet by Daniel Abraham, is another series with a huge emphasis on literary types being the heroes of the day. This series is very much unique, the prose and characters are rich. It's a series that's not for everyone (if you are looking for traditional action heavy epic fantasy in the vein of Sanderson or Jordan, you probably won't like this series), but if you like to read and enjoy rich characters and a different setting and a different sort of fantasy than your usual run-of-the-mill, read it.

The Chronicles of Master Li and Number Ten Ox

Master Li series by Barry Hughart. One of the best Asian fantasy series ever. It doesn't get the recognition it deserves. Not your standard fantasy novel, but it's a hell of a read and funny as hell.

The Folding Knife

The Folding Knife by KJ Parker. A series rich on details and characterization. Not so much on action. Parker is an author you love or hate. But if you enjoy Kay and a different style of fantasy, you'll enjoy Parker.

Across the Nightingale Floor

Across the Nightingale Floor by Lian Hearn. This 5 book series starts with a bang. It centers around an alternate Feudal Japan where magic works and stars ninjas, Samurai's, and warlords as the main characters. Kind of a fantasy version of Shogun. 

The Secrets of Jin-Shei

Alma Alexander's The Secrets of Jin-shei takes place in a similar mythical Chinese setting and centers on a princess and her friendship with a lower-class servant. It explores friendship and class systems in a changing world. An interesting read.

Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell

Susanna Clarke, Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell. One of the best-written, well-plotted historical fantasy tales. This one is set in the 18th century and follows the story of Jonathan Strange, the last magician of his time. Well written, dense, and a superb story. If you like Kay, you will absolutely love this one.

The Golem and the Genie

A recent work but a phenomenal one. If you like the beautifully written Under Heaven with the rich themes about what it means to be human than you'll like this very different, yet equally enthralling work. The Golem and the Genie is a work you should read.

The Name of the Wind

A completely different type of story than Kay's Under Heaven yet both are stories where the way words sounds are just as important as the story itself. Both are very much lyrical works, full of beautiful words and, if you dig, complex themes. If you like well written lyrical works, you'll like The Name of the Wind.

There are two types of fantasy readers. Those who feast on action-packed epic struggles for kingdoms, glory, and maybe to save the world from certain destruction from inimical forces. And there are fantasy works that focus on the human story. The Night Circus is one such story. There's a magical completion. There's two magicians locked in a competition by mysterious sponsors.â There's the requisite romance. There's betrayal and anger. There's resolution. But most of all, there's The Night Circus itself, a setting that's evocative and utterly captivating  a magical place that will have you running away and joining the circus (because who didn't dream of doing just this when you were a kid). This is one of the better fantasy novels to come out the past few years; it's a book that has quite captivated the mainstream. There's a reason for this, but you have to read it to find out!

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Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell

Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clarke. A battle between two rival magicians vying for power and prestige, set during the baroque Victorian period and coated in flowery language. This is probably the closest recommendation I have for similar books to The Night Circus.

The Prestige

The Prestige by Christoper Priest is a remarkable novel. You've probably seen the movie, but have you read the book. Two stage magicians battle it out, trying to one-up one another with more and more elaborate tricks. Like the Night Circus, it features a conflict/contest between two magicians, but this one is not played out in a circus but across stage halls. The conflict becomes deadly.

The Golem and the Jinni

The Golem and the Jinni is a beautiful and poignant character about two characters who are forced together by circumstances. It has the same sort of feeling as The Night Circus, though more character oriented.

The Magicians

Lev Grossman's fantastic trilogy. An entirely more depressing, postmodern take on the fantasy genre, but there's a school setting for the magically gifted.

Harry Potter

Ah Harry Potter. Is there any fantasy fan who has not read it? Not at all the same type of story, but there is a magical school setting and students of magic. If you are looking for this, then Harry Potter is your book, though an entirely more juvenile story and with poorer writing. 

The Sorcerer's House

The Sorcerer's House by Gene Wolf has the same sort of feeling of mysteriousness, magic -- and subtle danger. This time it's about a magical house and two children who stay there.

The Troupe 

The Troupe by Robert Bennett Jackson. Mysterious, magical, beautiful. These are worlds that describe this masterpiece. It has somewhat of a similar feeling as The Night Circus, but the magic here with both books featuring a company of performers where the performances are magical. On that note, if you want mysterious and strange, also read Robert Jackson's American Elsewhere.

Like many books on this list, The Powder Mage Cycle doesn’t contain just one magic system. However, the one synonymous with its name stands out the most, and it’s easy to see why. Powder Mages get their magical ability from snorting gunpowder, allowing them to heighten their senses, grow stronger, become faster, and manipulate explosions. These users are excellent marksmen, able to propel bullets faster and with more accuracy. Using powder too much can cause blindness, but mages are often pushed to such extremes when fighting traditional magic users known as ‘The Privileged’. While The Privileged are similar to mages found in traditional high fantasy, McClellan throws in some interesting aspects. Rather than just flexing their magical muscles, The Privileged must use their fingers. Their right hand is used to draw power from the ‘Else’, and their left to manipulate it using special gloves. This war between two different types of magic works as a focal point for the plot and the series, naturally weaving great detail and intense action into its already strong narrative.

Books in The Powder Mage Series (3)

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Alloy of Law 
Allow of Law is a very similar setup in writing style, in character, and in the non-stop action as A Promise of Blood. Considering Brandon Sanderson was McClellan's teacher, the similarities between the two works and writing styles between authors should be no surprise.
The Thousand Names
The Thousand Names. Another Flintlock Fantasy with a Colonial bent, but this one more military fantasy. Tons of explosive action, good characterization, plot twists, and an all out exciting read. Feels similar.
The Lightbringer
Brent Weeks' The Lightbringer series is very much similar to The Powder Mage trilogy. Not in plot, but in the same action-heavy writing style, the explosive and well written action scenes, and unique magic system. Both series also have a so so first book but an explosive improvement by book two.
Blood Song
Ryan's Blood Song is one non-stop action ride from start to finish. Yes, the plot is not the same, nor the writing style, but it's an enthralling read about violence and a book you just can't put down. Blood Song is a coming of age while The Powder Mage trilogy is not so much.
The Emperor's Blades
Another book from the new wave of fantasy writers that have been putting out startling debuts the past two years. The Chronicles of the Unhewn Throne is more typical 'epic fantasy' in the vein of a reworked Tolkien, yet I do feel if you'll probably enjoy it greatly if you like Blood Song. Don't expect the same sort of read -- they are completely different works, but I think if you enjoy one, you'll enjoy the other.
The Warded Man
All raw action, a unique magic system, and a darker themed world. These are some the same themes and ideas explored with McClellan's Powder Mage books. I suspect you'll enjoy The Warded Man if you like A Promise of Blood. Note that The Warded Man is part of a series that falls the pieces after the second book, but the first book is magnificent.
The Red Knight
The Red Knight. First book in Miles Cameron's awesome new series (Traitors Son Cycle). It takes some of the Arthurian knightly traditions and mixes in some good old epic fantasy into it. Tons of action, lots of fighting, lots of magic, a unique magic system, a powerful hero, a huge cast, military strategy, and an almost insane attention to real historical medieval minutia about items, living, and settings.
First Law
Joe Abercrombie's works are not the same, but they do embody the quintessential definition of gritty fantasy -- and you do find a good deal of grittiness in Brian McCellan's Powder Mage trilogy. So if you like the gritty aspect of The Promise of Blood, do check out Abercrombie's First Law books for a real good dose of it.
The first book was pure awesomeness -- that pure intersection between military strategy, adventure, and unbridled action with a cast of interestingly complex characters. The first book's desert setting was pretty interesting too as was the story of several companies fleeing a city through an impossible desert, hounded on all sides by enemies, both human and magical.The sequel was a good but the setting, and urban one, was not as enticing as the first book's desert. Still, a good read. Overall, an interesting take on the fantasy genre and one of the better new fantasy series to be released the past five years.

Books in The Shadow Campaigns Series (3)

It's not often you get a likable murderer, but in his Tales of the Kin series Douglas Hulick manages to do just that. Drothe lives in a world of snitches, killers, and thieves, and he's perfectly suited to that world. He's not an incredibly powerful magician, instead relying on supernatural night vision and good fighting skills to keep him alive. Drothe's forte is information brokering, not killing, but he doesn't shy away from murder if will get him what he wants. When his line of work leads him to a valuable artefact, he becomes the target of entire empires and has to fight tooth and nail to stay alive. Other than the incredible character building, Hulick brings years of expertise to the sub-genre. The man has an MA in medieval history and is a martial arts and 17th-century rapier expert. That shines through heavily in this book, with a Byzantine-inspired setting and incredible action scenes. If you're tired of drawn-out, unrealistic swordfights, it's safe to say this book is for you. Drothe is not immune to injury and often survives through dumb luck. This combines with some truly satisfying moments as the puzzle pieces form a cohesive bigger picture. The result is a gritty, fast-paced series that keeps you entertained the whole way through. Read if you like: The Lies of Locke Lamora, dark fantasy, first-person perspective.

Books in Tale Of The Kin Series (0)

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)

Adventure fantasy that's unlike anything you've read before. Take the setting and wonder and magic of The Arabian Nights, mix in the modern fantasy traditions, and bake it with some strong characterization and out pops Throne of the Crescent Moon -- a fantasy adventure set in a magical middle eastern world.It's so well done, with so much action, adventure, and pure FUN, that I can't help but recommend Throne of the Crescent Moon as one of the better (and wildly different) fantasy books to come out since 2010. And it doesn't hurt that the prose is wonderful to boot.My only complaint here is the author has not yet published a sequel to this wonderful read. If you haven't picked up this zany tale (and I suspect most of you haven not), treat yourself to this book. It's like nothing you've read before.

Books in The Crescent Moon Kingdoms Series (1)

One of the best fantasy novels in recent times, Blood Song also happens to have many school-like elements. Left as a child at the gates of the Sixth Order, Vaelin Al Sorna joins a secular group of holy warriors and forfeits his right to the throne. Furious, he throws himself into his training, earning respect from his peers and struggling to overcome dangerous trials. This, combined with a flashback-like narration, has led to many comparisons with The Name of the Wind, and in some ways, it's apt. Like Rothfuss, Anthony Ryan weaves a story with beautiful prose, but he also avoids some of the book’s criticisms. Vaelin is never close to a Mary Sue character, able to do everything well and avoid real danger. He’s specialized and focused, and his trials at the order cement that. Many school fantasy books present a straightforward story, but Blood Song’sis far more complex. The book presents dozens of plot threads, but not in a messy, incomprehensible way. Ryan shows his gift as a storyteller by tying them neatly together as Vaelin comes of age in the rigid school atmosphere.

Books in Raven's Shadow Series (2)

While Sanderson excels at writing âepicâ fantasy, Steelheartwas a pleasant surprise. Sanderson takes on the âsuperheroâ fantasy genre andwrites a uniquely compelling tale about a band of ordinary humans whospecialize in taking down once-humans who have been granted special powers(think super-villains here) and use these powers to dominate, rule, andterrorize the world.

Books in Reckoners Series (2)

The Lightbringer series holds one of the best magic systems in fantasy, straight from the mind of Brent Weeks. It manages to be simple in concept, yet holds tons of extra depth for those looking for it. Essentially, it works through colors. Chromaturgy allows its users (Drafters) to turn light into a physical substance named Luxin. However, to form Luxin, drafters must stare at the light, absorb it through their eyes, and tear it out through the skin. As a result, the strength of the user is dependent on their eyesight. The ability to differentiate colors is key, and only the Lord Prism can use all of them without consequences. Each color has different properties and categories, with some more powerful than others. Red Luxin, for example, is flammable and often used in warfare. Blue is great for weaponry, while superviolet, which sits outside the visible spectrum, can be used for invisible manipulation. Sadly, like all good magic systems, it has a cost. The whites of drafter’s eyes begin to color, signalinga reduced lifespan. Use too much, and they will go crazy, red drafters becoming rage-filled, while blues will become hard and logical. As you can tell already, Weeks has put incredible thought into this system, and it echoes throughout all aspects of society. As well as regular power dynamics, there are gender ones, with women far more likely to see colors accurately. On top of this is an expertly crafted, tense plot, life-like characters, and sprinkles of humor. It’s a must-read for any magic lover, and that’s why it tops our list.

Books in Lightbringer Series (6)

Abraham wowed everyone with his Long Price Quartet books, a fundamentally different sort of fantasy tale that was beautifully written and character driven, very much a different fantasy than you've ever read before. He's also done a good job in the science fiction genre, with a modern take on old school Soap Opera with his The Expanse (written under a pen name).Abraham decided to get his hands wet with a more traditional epic fantasy yarn with his Dagger and the Coin series. Epic fantasy yes, but it's a Abraham novel, meaning it's first and foremost a character driven tale first with everything else secondary. There's action, magic, mystery, and politicking, but many of these are very much in the background while the story spends a long time building up the characters, their relationships with each other and their place to the world around them. But once things get going (warning, it can take a couple books in), things get going! There's a lot of plot twists and it's hard to see where the story is going. He's almost wrapped it all up though. So for a traditional fantasy epic with awesome writing, awesome characters with a darker bent, read this series. It's one of the best new fantasy epics and certainly one of the better character driven fantasies in the 2000's.

Books in The Dagger And The Coin Series (6)

This one by Tad Williams, a master at writing well plotted, rich fantasy tales.This is his second foray into urban fantasy territory (first being War of the Flowers – another well recommended urban fantasy tale) and looks to be one of his best works in a decade.Dirty Streets of Heaven follows in the dectective-noir tradition of The Dresden Files, but it's no clone at all. Williams puts something new into the genre and my feeling here is that Butcher has some serious competition for the Urban Fantasy crown with Williams' new series. Out of all the various contenders for the throne, this series has every potential to be "the next" Dresden series.

Books in Bobby Dollar Series (4)

Alex Verus by Benedict Jacka A lot of the books on this list have a similarity. They may be in wildly different settings and various fantasy worlds, but most of them are some time in the past. Jacka’s urban fantasy offers a great change from that through a modern London setting. We follow a humble shop owner called Alex who is mage not of battle magic but divining. He can see the threads of various paths of the future and their implications. This makes him valuable; to the dark wizards, and to the light ones. However, the strength of setting and magic isn’t the major driving force in this novel. That comes with the way Jacka writes Alex. He has weaknesses, yet he’s able to overcome them. He’s trained in martial arts, but he won’t fight in every situation needlessly. This creates a character who is smart and real, yet still has room for growth. Alex has to learn not to sit on the fence entirely, to do things for the greater good, and to find his place in the world of magicians. Read if you like: Urban fantasy, Jim Butcher.

Books in Alex Verus Series (8)

Robert Jackson Bennett is one of the most talented writers in the genre but who has, for whatever reason, been mostly overlooked by the average reader. His best book (in a string of awesome books) is his newest book City of Stairs which will hopefully bring him the acclaim and recognition he rightfully deserves.City of Stairs was one of the best fantasy books of 2014 -- a sharp, startling, and wonderful mix of epic fantasy, mystery, and good old fashion adventure.It's a work that combines a fiercely unique setting with some outstandingly realized characters and a sharp plot that starts slow but picks up some serious steam partway through the book. While the basic elements of the story are not necessary unique it's how the author perfectly blends everything together -- story, characters, setting -- into a something special. Bennett has also managed to create my favorite fantasy character of all time with his delightful Sigrid who absolute steals the show with some of the very, very best scenes ever in a fantasy book.Serious action. Check. Magical and mysterious setting. Check. Indelible characters that will stay with you long after you finish the book. Check. Check and double check.My only complaint with the novel is that it can take over one hundred pages before the story unfolds and things get kicking, but hell, once it does, hold on tight for the ride!If you pick up one book this year, make it this one. 

Books in The Divine Cities Series (1)

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More Works by Robert Jackson

City of Stairs is Jackson's best work, but check out his next best American Elsewhere and his wonderfully written The Troupe. His other books are a dime too, rich in deep themes and exploration (through fantastical tale) about the American dream.

The Mirror Empire 

The Mirror Empire by Kameron Hurley explores some of the same themes as does City of Stairs; it's not the same type of narrative or story, but there are some loose overlap in  themes. Both do explore themes of colonialism and power and of the oppressed becoming the oppressors

American Gods

American Gods by Neil Gaimen. Recommended because besides being quite literary in theme, it's about old vanished god's fighting for their survival, sort of mirroring the old dead god's coming back idea of City of Stairs.

The Grim Company

The Grim Company is, I fully admit, not at all similar in style to City of Stars being a gritty grimdark in the style of Joe Abercrombie, but the themes of overthrowing and killing the gods only to find out such an action has had catestrphic consequences after the fact, does mirror loosely the theme of old dead gods coming back into the world explored in City of Stairs

The Chronicles of the Unhewn Throne

Starts with The Emperor's Blades. On the list here, this is the most traditional epic fantasy tale, but it does explore the idea of dead vanished gods coming back into the world of men as a very bad thing.

The emperor is dead and the empire in turmoil. With these dark scenes, Stavely’s series opens, and things don’t let up from there. A son and heir, Valyn is training with a renowned mercenary force, but even then, he isn’t out of reach. In danger from assassins as well as his training, his life is difficult, but his point of view remains captivating. For Stavely, however, one school fantasy thread isn’t enough. While Valyn presents a gripping story about military growth, Kaden brings a philosophical aspect. Training with the Shin monks, there are questions of faith and discipline as his character develops. Meanwhile, a third sibling, Adare, is tasked with keeping the empire together. 21-years-old and caught in a complex political web, she presents a more mature viewpoint, but also a more bookish one. Despite this multitude of perspectives, the series gives life to every character. They’re complex and vulnerable, spurring emotion in interlinking but physically distant stories.

Books in Chronicle Of The Unhewn Throne Series (5)

In the tradition of Steven King, the spiritual father to Joe Hill's style of horror, NOS4A2 is a novel about the tricky space of growing up and the uncanny shit that happened to you as a child It's a novel about the unresolved past coming back to haunt you and your family. Released to critical acclaim, NOS4A2 is the story of Victoria McQueen who as a child in a fit of rebellion, casually hitches a ride on a 1938 Rolls-Royce Wraitha with Charles Manx, an avuncular fellow who turns out to be anything but. Vic is taken for the ride of her life into a nightmarish landscape, into an alternative reality built on the screams of children, a place where no child has ever escaped. But escape she does. But thereâs a price to pay years later. And that price is her son.This book is pure horror, but one of those complicated literary spaces where pure horror and pure fantasy can both occupy the same shelf in the bookstore. Certainly, this is one of the best horror reads to come along in a long time.NOS4A2 is a horrifying tale the whole way through  it grabs that part of you that scares and continues to prod it with horror after horror; I donât think it's an exaggeration to say it's a scary âride the whole way through. If you want your scare on, pick this book up. One of the best horror reads this decade and one hell of a ride you wonât forget. Just donât read it at night and keep your little ones close!
If a magic system was by alawyer, this would be it. That may sound like a boring concept, but Max Gladstone’s execution is far from it. In his urban fantasy world, it makes complete sense, leaving you wondering why it hasn’t been done before. In the city of Alt Coulumb, the power of the gods is for sale. Magic works on the basis of contracts and trades, Gods bartering with cities and each other for the loan of their powers.As a result, the world is populated by vampires and gargoyles, fallen gods and necromancers. However, due to these contracts, using magic requires express permission. The battle for its use partly legal, arguing a case for its use in the courtroom. From this concept, Gladstone builds a complex mythology, complete with multi-dimensional libraries and supernatural elements. Despite this, he never infodumps or confuses. The magic system unfolds naturally though action and dialogue, spurring an easy understanding of its nuances. To use power, mages manipulate their souls to affect the physical world, but there are elements of steampunk and modern economic systems. The result is a fantastic blend of genres, defying hundreds of conventions and telling an unusual story.

Books in Craft Sequence Series (7)

At night, Peter V. Brett’s world changes. Demons rise from the planet’s core, infused with supernatural powers and with a hunger for human flesh.Constant bombardment has knocked humans back into a technological dark age, and their only protection isthe wards that form barriers around settlements. It’s these fragile wards that make the base of The Demon Cycle’s magic system, and they aren’t powered conventionally. In most fantasy, the source of magic comes from either the caster or physical materials. Wards, on the other hand, draw power from the demons themselves, reflecting their energy back at them. As a result, it doesn’t merely let the user wave a hand and solve problems. It requires intense preparation, fail-safes, and means that humans can’t use it to exploit one another. Thanks to the ward system, there’s also an incredible amount of complexity. Wards of fire, confusion, heat, and more can be etched into the ground, added to weapons, or even branded ontothe user’s skin. Thanks to the protagonistsrevolutionary thinking, the magic never gets old. Arlen, as well as being a compelling character, continuouslyfinds ways to innovate and bring value to the story. Throwing two additional POV’s into the mix, Brett caries the reader effortlessly through his five titles.

Books in The Demon Cycle Series (5)

With 'grim' in the title, it's not hard to guess that this book is clearly camped in the grimdark sub-genre, and it hits all the right beats for gritty, amoral fantasy. The Grim Company begins with a city being destroyed. Just to, y'know, make sure you get what you're in for. From there, a cast of gritty characters romps around the world, with the interesting inclusion of a legless mage. The world finds itself in the 'Age of Ruin', jumped-up wizards killed the gods, leaving their corpses scattered around the world, leaking wild magic. Scull's imagination is great, and he manages to make his book fun without sacrificing any of the hard-fightin', hard-drinkin', sweary goodness of grimdark fantasy. It's also fun to have a setting with plenty of magic, which is relatively rare in the muddy worlds of gritty fantasy. Scull's pacing is impeccable, and after an explosive beginning, he chugs along nicely, and it's easy to find yourself up at four in the morning cursing what a bloody idiot you are for not going to sleep at a normal human time.Read this book if you like fantasy with a healthy portion of fun mixed in with the broken bones and rusted steel.

Books in Grim Company Series (2)

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I recommend you take a good look at our Best Grimdark Fantasy list -- you'll find a bucket load of gritty, grimdark book recommendations there.