Top 25 Fantasy Books for Women

Also known as Fantasy Books with Strong Female Protaganists
Empowering Realms: The Top 25 Fantasy Books for Women Unveiled

Some women want fantasy books that are different from those for men. Now, I know many women read the same fantasy as the boys and are fine with that, but for the women who want fantasy with strong female protagonists, fantasy that's not all about some hunk whose mission is to slay dark lords and sleep with as many women as possible while doing so, this list is for you.

Why have I created this list? 

I've heard many women complaining most fantasy novels are 'boy' fantasy. Sounds familiar? You know, fantasy books with male protagonists, pathetic females whose sole role is only to be saved by the hero, and to be part of a ham-fisted romance. 

If you like that sort of book as a woman, that's fine. But if you are a woman who likes strong female characters and books that don't cater to the male mind (and yes ladies, MOST of the fantasy books are written by men FOR men), this list will give you some ideas.

While admittedly, most fantasy books are geared toward the male reader, there are some very well written books that may appeal to SOME women who like a "softer," more "character-driven" fantasy tale. Some of the books listed have strong elements of romance (see our best romance novels sister site for PURE romance recommendations if that's what you are looking for).

To aid these ladies in the quest to find good fantasy literature that appeals to such sensibilities, I've listed the best fantasy books for women, or to put it more politically correctly, the best fantasy books with strong female protagonists. 

Those ladies who are offended by my title "Fantasy Books for Women," my sincere apologies, but this list is simply my attempt to help certain women (or men) find books that they may find particularly interesting. This is not only limited to girls -- guys who don't mind reading books with complex female protagonists will enjoy the books on this list too.

I do note that this list has become somewhat controversial over the past couple of years (I've had several women post long essays on the comment section "critiquing" my selections as completely sexist) mainly due to the mere fact that I've even suggested there may be a difference between what females and males prefer. 

So let me reiterate my intent for this list: it recommends books with VERY strong female protagonists, strong (and realistic) romance, and characters you can emotionally connect with. 

If you ladies want to read fantasy books with shoddy female characters, books with strong male protagonists, and books where females are treated like crap, then feel free to check out the Top 25 Fantasy Books list -- there are some books like that there. Or if you don't give a damn, then look at any lists on the site -- there are plenty of good books with both male and female protagonists authored by men and women.

There's a lot of good stuff there that both men and women will enjoy, but this specific list just has some particular books that you may connect with on an emotional level.

A nautical fantasy featuring pirates, dragons, and magic? What's not to love? To top it off, Liveship Traders is filled with fantastic women. Ronica, the widow of the liveship's former captain is independent, resourceful, and instrumental in galvanizing her town in the face of disaster.  Her daughters, Keffria and Althea, and Granddaughter Malta, all have complex paths to walk, some only to be fleshed out in other series. All are interesting and complicated and central to the story. Even the liveship herself is a character, really. The people in this book are so well-fleshed out and grow so much throughout the trilogy; heroes might become villains and vice versa, you just never know where their paths will lead. Rape comes up in this series, but isn't introduced as some sensationalistic device as some male writers tend to do; it's realistic and gritty, but Hobb addresses the very real struggle of how rape is perceived in society, and how victims can go on to rebuild their lives after trauma. ]She weaves an incredible story told from multiple perspectives, creating layers of mystery and adventure. Each time she peels back one layer to reveal one mystery of the liveships, she reveals another. The intertwining of this series with all her others (Farseer, Rainwilds, The Elderlings) is just masterful and leaves no ends loose or without purpose.

Books in Liveship Traders Series (2)

Aerin is shy, clumsy, ugly, and mistrusted by the people she is supposed to rule. She is ridiculed for being the daughter of a witch with none of her witchy powers, and even when she eventually becomes a Dragon-Killer, it is because it is a task that needs doing; the dragons are small and numerous… like rats. It isn't exactly a heroic compliment. Yet her inner strength, her determination and willingness to learn that which does not come easily make her the hero she needs to be. She is tough and proves her worth again, again, and again no matter the obstacles or jeering from the sidelines she endures. While there is romance, it is most definitely on our heroine's terms, and not because she intends to snag him as a way out of her miserable life. It is organic and complex and believable, which is so very lacking in many fantasy novels. Hero and the Crown is still one of the best fantasy novels on the shelves today.

Books in Damar Series (4)

This intricate retelling of the Celtic Swans fairy tale takes an enchanting story and embellishes it with depth, believable backstory, ancient magic, and great characters.  It is painfully dark, at times horrifying, but also offers elements of hope, devoted love, and healing. One criticism is that while its rape scenes are incredibly graphic, actually loving consensual sex scenes are all but fade-to-black absent. Despite this, Sorcha is simply radiant as the heroine who accomplishes the fantastic tasks required to set things right. She is beloved by and shares a unique bond with her brothers, and while no warrior, her strength is in healing and in quietly (you have no idea how quietly) going about what needs doing with fortitude and courage. Despite her burdens, she is able to see the beauty in the world, and that takes a special kind of magic. Again, folks tend to shelve anything related to fairytale literature as YA or even Juvenile… Daughter of the Forest is definitely ill suited for children, due to the graphic abuse mentioned above. As Sorcha matures, she grows into her strength and intelligence, meeting each painful task with diligence and unfailing love. It is a beautiful story highlighting the power of small and simple things.

Books in Sevenwaters Series (6)

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Sequel Books by Juliet Marillier
Once you finish the Sevenwaters Trilogy, look at her other follow up books after the trilogy ends which is a sequel Trilogy called 'Sevenwaters'. The first book is Heir of Sevenwaters, the second is Seer of Sevenwaters, and final is Flame of Sevenwaters.

For more character driven female-centric fantasy or narratives with strong female characters:

Deerskin by Robin Mckinly 

The Wizard of Earthsea (Book 2 and Book 4 feature lead female characters)

Liveship Traders by Robin Hobb

Also consider looking at our list: Best Fantasy Books for Women

A lot of novels on this list are either children's stories or young adult. While they make for great stories, there are some great coming of age stories that feature very mature content. Primarily, Phedre's Trilogy is a fantasy series. It features a medieval world in Terre d'Ange, a mirror of France. It's complete with angelic powers, myths, and warriors. It also contains some BDSM. In the hands of a novice writer, this could become a Fifty Shades sleaze-fest. And though this is Carey's debut, she's far more subtle than that. Sexuality is tied into the very fabric of the world, feeling like an extension of it rather than being thrown in randomly. It's a fantasy book first, and a romance one second. Still, Carey realizes that the discovery of sex is an important role in coming of age. She doesn't linger on it unnecessarily, but it does tie naturally into the thread of the story. We follow Phedre from her roots as a courtesan, where a red mote in her eye makes her undesirable. However, it's more than just a blemish. According to her new patron, it's a mark from the heavens. What follows is an education surpassing her humble beginning. She learns not just language and history but to observe and influence. It's a telling that's epic in scale, stretching across three large books as Phedre uses her knowledge to combat conspiracies and save the ones she loves. Read if you like: BDSM in fantasy, epic fantasy, angels.

Books in Kushiel's Universe Series (2)

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Other Kushiel Books

Carey's other Kushiel books are must reads 

Liveship Traders

If you like the whole strong female protagonist of Carey's world, then you should read The Liveship Traders by Robin Hobb which features a very richly drawn world (same world as Hobb's 

The Farseer

Read the Farseer which is a strong character-driven fantasy. The protagonist is male though.

In Legend Born

You might also Like Laura Resnick's In Legend Born, which is high fantasy with some compelling females characters with realistic motivations.

If you like Carey's work, I suggest you look at the Top 25 Fantasy Books for Women list which will have quite a few books that you may enjoy.

Book Flap Description  The ruling Asharites of Al-Rassan have come from the desert sands, but over centuries, seduced by the sensuous pleasures of their new land, their stern piety has eroded. The Asharite empire has splintered into decadent city-states led by warring petty kings. King Almalik of Cartada is on the ascendancy, aided always by his friend and advisor, the notorious Ammar ibn Khairan -- poet, diplomat, soldier -- until a summer afternoon of savage brutality changes their relationship forever. Meanwhile, in the north, the conquered Jaddites' most celebrated -- and feared -- military leader, Rodrigo Belmonte, driven into exile, leads his mercenary company south. In the dangerous lands of Al-Rassan, these two men from different worlds meet and serve -- for a time -- the same master. Sharing their interwoven fate -- and increasingly torn by her feelings -- is Jehane, the accomplished court physician, whose own skills play an increasing role as Al-Rassan is swept to the brink of holy war, and beyond. Hauntingly evocative of medieval Spain, The Lions of Al-Rassan is both a brilliant adventure and a deeply compelling story of love, divided loyalties, and what happens to men and women when hardening beliefs begin to remake -- or destroy -- a world.  Gavriel Kay has never written a bad fantasy novel. He always populates his worlds with fully realized characters. His female characters are always strong, with sassy personalities and strong intelligence. 
Paladin of Souls is the only book I know of featuring a middle-aged, retired queen on a pilgrimage, who is chalked up as mad—though personally I think she's just bored and tired of being shoved aside. Ista is everything you need in a hero: complex and powerful in surprising ways. My favorite part of Ista's story is that she's not young and foolish (though her entourage does question her sanity at times). She is sensible resolute, and noble; just haunted. She knows how to get things done, and does it without all the fluttering of a younger heroine. She starts off with no real power or even purpose really, but the power she finds is divine rather than political and her purpose is conquering demons of the very real variety. Bujold has a way of taking an epic fantasy ride, and taking it deeper; making it more personal and significant. It's no wonder this masterpiece has landed Hugo, Nebula, and Locus Awards for Best Novel.

Books in World Of The Five Gods Series (2)

This collaboration proves that you don't have to wade neck-deep in magic to make a great fantasy. This series showcases the other side of Feist's Riftwar Saga, which is a great read, but pretty standard as far as fantasy lore goes with the typical magician, orphan, dragon, elf, combo. Empire is something entirely different. Set in Asian-inspired Kelewan, we ditch the medieval European landscape for once, and enter a world where Akoma Honor drives the politicking of the ruling class. Mara is the new empress after her father and brother are killed, and learns to navigate these deadly waters with alacrity driven by need. She is one of the most multidimensional and fearless characters I've read, rising from precariously clinging to her title to a truly powerful contender. The synergy between these two masterful authors yields up something richer than either alone. Even seemingly small characters have big ambitions and impact the story in surprising ways. Intrigue, murder, fantastic creatures, fervent love, and battle; Empire is everything that makes fantasy worth reading.

Books in The Empire Series (2)

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Books set in an Asian fantasy landscape are pretty rare. If you liked the sort of mystical Asian landscape portrayed in this series, you might Find Sean Russell's Brother Initiate and Gather of Clouds a good read as well. Guy Gavriel Kay also has a new book, Under Heaven, that's sort of an alternative version of China (with elements of magic to it).

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)

Katsa is a pragmatic graceling born with the ability to kill with her bare hands from the time she was eight years old. Graced as all gracelings are with unique superpowers and marked with two different eye colors, she was orphaned and becomes assassin to the King in her youth. With attachment issues and a very sterile view of murder, she is very flawed; which balances out that she's pretty much invincible, unstoppable as both a warrior and as a person. Light romantic interest flavors the story, but it's nothing so strong as to overpower the heroine and her purpose. The female relationships are so real and relatable, and I love that at times it's just women out there saving the world. No men in shining armor. Just two women as comrades in arms. It's not this huge gender issue that she's a warrior. She just is. Graceling has landed a dozen awards and was nominated for more. Definitely worth a read.

Books in Graceling Realm Series (3)

Yelena is about to be executed for murder and is offered an alternative: food taster to the king. She herself is poisoned and must appear for her daily antidote or die a painful death. What she does with the hand dealt her is fantastic. She is a capable, educated heroine who takes responsibility for her own actions, and plans ahead the moment she begins to see options opening up, then works hard for her future. Watching her grow from desperate orphan into a competent, deadly fighter was fantastic, and strong character development anchors Yelena and Valek into your soul as you weave your way through this magic combo of assassins, spies, and intrigue. I love that romance took a seat in the background and let us focus on the action at hand. Themes of mortality, freedom of choice, and tests of loyalty predominate and make it more than just a fun read.

Books in Study 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)

Berg writes some of the best female heroines in the genre – all of them are carefully developed personalities with a lot of depth to them. There are a number of good books to pick from (and many of them feature a well-drawn male protagonist), but my pick goes to her The Bridge of D’Arnath series which features a magical story about a disgraced noblewoman who slowly puts the pieces of her shattered life back together, and finds out that happiness and even love just still might be possible. The world is well drawn as is the wonderful cast of characters – the female protagonist especially stands out.
Monza Murcatto is out for blood. Known as the Snake of Talins, the most feared and famous mercenary in Styria, she is betrayed by her employer and left for dead. Unfortunately for him, she's alive and fueled by vengeance. Flanked by a drunkard, a poisoner, a mass murderer with OCD and a Northman who just wants to do the right thing, she is a force to be reckoned with. With signature Abercrombie indulgence, Best Served Cold is a bloody, thrilling, expedition. Filled with harsh language, black humor, terrible sex, and broken characters, it's everything his fans have come to expect and love from his work.  Monza is a total badass and gets the job done; just don't mind the collateral damage along the way.

Books in First Law World Series (6)

Amazon Book Description  Fleeing persecution to build a free colony on the planet Lenfell, the magic-wielding Mageborns find their new home torn apart by civil war between the Mage Guardians and the Lords of Malerris.  Melini Rawn is a great at writing realistic female characters. The description of the novel does not do it justice. This is a wholly character-driven book, with complex, deep characters and an enticing world. Unlike some of the other fantasy books for women mentioned above, the entire plot is not based on romance, but the strong female characters, well-developed world, and addicting plot make this a must read for the fairer sex.

Books in Exiles Series (2)

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.

This series does something a bit different from your usual fantasy romance. The setting of the book is a different world, a world with different legends and religions. There is a religious aspect to the book, but it’s never religious in a preachy sort of way, but rather used as a plot device.The romance is subtle and handled with care. Shinn is not one of those ham-fisted authors who forces threads together to make something happen. Everything that happens between the two main characters, happens organically. This series will affect you pretty deeply – it’s not one of those read and discard type books. The first book in the series is the best with the other two sequels slightly worse, though all three you will read back to back no doubt.

Books in Samaria Series (4)

If there's one thing that can be taken from our own history, it's that that watching monarchies fight for and over power is fascinating. As long as you don't get your head chopped off in the process. It's this kind of intrigue that drives the plot of Crown of Stars and makes it such an enthralling read.Why it made this listThe series requires a serious investment of time – each title is long and needs some energy to get through. Fortunately, it's worth it to spend some time with the characters. They're complex and complicated – with all the motivations, strengths and flaws of people in our own world. For this reason, they feel real and easy to identify with. You can't help but become attached to them.Elliot manages to paint a world that's rich in detail without sacrificing any pace in the action. Not something that's easy to find in long sagas like this one. And it's lucky she's so skilled at it because reading this series becomes and immersive experience – one that would suffer if it got weighed down by lengthy expositions or descriptions.The themes explored in the series are easy to relate to; the kind of things we content with throughout our lives. Through the relationships between the characters, she challenges readers to explore notions concerning the cost of power, the fine line between love and obsession and the complex nature of fulfilling duties in the face of contention.

Books in Crown Of Stars Series (5)

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Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn
Tad William's Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn saga. William has beautifully reinterpreted Tolkien's Lord of the Rings (and no it is not in the least bit a clone, and no, there is no One Ring), creating a vast world of mystery and magic. Characterization is top notch.

Liveship Traders
Robin Hobb's Liveship Traders. Romance, adventure, and lots of romantic tension driving the narrative.

The Curse of Chalion
The Curse of Chalion, which has as strong narrative driven by characters. Even more, read the sequel, Paladin of Souls which is from the perspective of a middle aged woman looking for love again.

Symphony of Ages
You might also might like the Symphony of Ages books which is very much driven by romance the whole way through.
Amazon Book Description  Melanie Rawn's best-selling debut is a novel of love and war, magic and madness, and deadly dangerous dragons that hold the secret to unimaginable wealth that could prove key to mutual peace-or a bloody tyrant's reign. And among it all, an idealistic young ruler struggles to civilize a culture that understands the strength of the sword-but has yet to discover the true power of knowledge  Those ladies wanting some epic fantasy with a female bent, well, this is what you've been waiting for. This is not your standard peasant boy becomes hero and beats up dark lord plot, however. It's epic fantasy on a grand scale with a cast of very strong female (and male) characters. The romantic relationship between the male and female protagonists is the main focus of this novel, but the world-building is first class with an interesting magic system, lots of political tension, and a strong plot. For those girls who want a fantasy book with action and good romance, this is your book.

Books in Dragon Prince Series (2)

Book Flap DescriptionIn a world outside reality, a young girl's spirit hovers between incarnations, knowing neither her past nor her future. In the temporal world lives Nevyn, who long ago vanquished the maiden's hand in marriage and forged a terrible bond between three souls. Now he must atone the wrong of his youth.The entire premise of the series is also pretty interesting: a man and woman are constantly reborn and in each life somehow cross paths and fall in love over and over.  And who doesn't love a magical story about two lovers trapped in a cycle of rebirth – always destined to meet one another with each passing cycle? It’s a unique concept and the author plays with a lot of different themes such as rebirth, destiny, unfinished business, and soulmates. Romance and love is definitely a huge part of the whole series (and in fact, the whole premise of the series is hinged on it), but it’s not beat-you-over-the-head romance and it’s more of a romance of the soul – destiny if you will – than all-out raw physical passion, as many pulp fantasy novels love to depict.Lots of romance, betrayal, redemption in this one. Great for those who like romance fantasy or even something a little different.
Garth Nix's Sabriel is marketed to the young adult audience but easily appeals to a wider readership. Fantastic world-building paints both the realm of Ancelstierre, and The Old Kingdom, where 'Free magic' reigns. Separated by the wall, its elementals, undead, and sorcerers are unknown to the general population. Sabriel lives in a boarding school in Ancelstierre, widely unaware of magic until a creature appears in her dorm room. In its arms is a message from her father and his bells, one of the few tools that can banish the dead. With a powerful sorceress rising across the wall, she must head back to her father in the Old Kingdom to begin her Abhorsen training. With a simple and incredible unique magic system, memorable characters, and a vibrant world, Sabriel is very hard to dislike. It's a simple coming of age story, a fight between good and evil, and great fun all the way through.

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The Chronicles of Narnia

A classic series kids around the world have grown up reading is The Chronicles of Narnia. While Narnia is very clearly a Christian allegory, it can be enjoyed without reading too deep into the Christian subtext. The writing is decent and it's a great magical adventure for both kids and adults.

Keys to the Kingdom

You should also read Garth Nix's newest series, Keys to the Kingdom, is also a great read, both for the kiddies and adults, one of the better series for kids.


Don't forget to read Jonathan Stroud's very impressive The Bartimaeus Trilogy. It's an action-packed thrill ride about a magician's apprentice who manages to summon a powerful genie (Bartimaeus). Bartimaeus is less than pleased with this turn of events and tries to sabotage his young master at every opportunity. Hilariously funny, at times very dark, with great writing, a great cast of well-developed characters, and an interesting world, Bartimaeus is a must-read series (for both kids and adults).

His Dark Materials

You might want to take a gander at Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials. It's uber famous and with good reason.


For a great steampunk fantasy for young adults/kids, read Scott Westerfield's Leviathan. I'm not usually into YA fantasy, but some of the concepts and the action present in the book had me hooked.

Accross the Nightingale Floor

You must read Across the Nightingale Floor by Lian Hearn. It's a fantasy tale set in a Japanese milieu. It's got all you want in an epic fantasy WITH the addition of samurai's, ninja's, and magic!

Harry Potter

And finally, Harry Potter. I won't bother explaining why. 

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.

A landmark step in feminist fiction, this dark fantasy series is unlike anything you've ever read. Bishop takes the physical and typical differences between men and women, highlights rather than diminishes them, and creates a world in which they are acknowledged and accepted. Her work is dark, though. The sexuality is especially dark. It's more of a tool of power rather than meant to be a loving act of any kind. From pedophiles, rape, and incest to torture… it's pretty heavy. Janelle begins as a child, destined to become the greatest witch queen that's ever lived, and this is her twisted, powerful, painful crossing into that role. She is at times cute, at other moments creepy, and at still others downright scary. The fact that she is continually being rescued by the men in her posse knocks it down a few levels on this list for me, but it's touted as a great triumph in feminist fantasy, and it's well-loved by those who enjoy some seriously disturbing storytelling, so it can hang out.

Books in The Black Jewels Series (10)

Most of theitems on this list made it thanks to their unique ideas. Instead, Codex Alera takes a system familiar to millions of children. While many authors claim inspiration from Tolkien or Jordan, Butcher takes his from Pokémon. It’s not something you’d expect in a serious, epic fantasy series, but this gives it an incredible amount of flavor. Butcher is a master world-builder, and he doesn’t simply throw Pikachu or Charizard into a fantasy world of his making. The Pokémon, in this case, are known as Furies. Furies are elemental spirits home to the realm of Alera. The greatest among them act as gods for the populace, while some bond to humans and forge a magical connection. Fury crafters can use that bond to control wind, water, fire, air, and wood, but they also have other perks. Watercrafters, for example, can read emotions, shapeshift, heal, or remain beautiful indefinitely. Metalcrafters are better suited to swordplay, able to sense nearby metal, strengthen and forge metal, as well as gaining speed and accuracy. Of course, there are some that can become masters of multiple disciplines, allowing them to reach tremendous power. The protagonist, however, isn’t one of them. In fact, he’s one of the few without a craft. Through this tool, Butcher gives a glimpse of the world from the perspective of a non-magic user. He shows the strength of both magic and wits, and paints incredible action scenes alongside them.

Books in Codex Alera Series (5)

Similar Recommendations

These recommendations are taking up the 'Roman themes' in fantasy. That is, fantasy set in a Roman-esque setting or fantasy about roman legions or influenced by Roman history/culture. 

Oath of Empires

Oath of Empires. Fantasy set in an alternative Roman Empire with the whole East vs West mentality. Lots of magic, lots of powerful heroes, lots of action, lots of sword and sorcery battles, and quite dark overall. I'd say the closest thing to Codex Alera you'll find.

The Videssos cycle

You might also want to check out The Videssos cycle by Harry Turtledove which is about a Roman legion who find themselves magically transported into another world in the middle of a pitched Roman battle. While this is not really about magic, there's lots of politics and battle strategy involved with a few vs. overwhelming odds theme -- so it shares that similarity with the battle tactics Butcher details in his Codex Books. 

Ghost King

Ghost King by David Gemmell. Features a whole barbarian invading a roman-like empire theme here.

The Gates of Rome

The Gates of Rome. Conn Iggulden's alternative historical fiction featuring some of the famous roman characters we've all studied in history class. You might like it if you are hungering for some Roman historical fiction.

Latro in the Mist

Latro in the Mist by Gene Wolfe. Expect something remarkably well written, excellent plotting, but not as much action. For those who enjoy a well written tale set in a roman-like landscape.

Sailing to Sarantium

Saling to Sarantium (and the sequel Lord of Emperors) written by Guy Gaverial Kay. Expect awesome plots, detailed world building, complex characters, but less so on action. The action often takes place on the political stage and between characters, but not via battles. No magic. Still, read it.

Though Sanderson's main criticism is a lack of character depth, it's hard to deny the satisfying coming of age stories in Mistborn. The novel describes a classic rags-to-riches story, Vin progressing from street scammer to metal ingesting magician. However, Vin's development and the scope of the story goes much further than that. Sanderson raises many important questions through the protagonist and lets her grow as she comes to her own conclusions. There's an exploration of class, religion, moral ambiguity, and, most importantly, trust. Rather just presenting a story of powerless to powerful, the author explores how one so exploited can come to form meaningful relationships. While some would be content to leave it there, this tale contains similar progression in other characters. The latter books focus on the growth of Elend from an intellectual to a leader, while a minor character plot explores the quest to find meaning among powerful friends. These plot arches combine with an incredible magic system, detailed worldbuilding, and intense action sequences to create an easy and entertaining read. Read if you like: Interesting magic systems, religion in fantasy, rags to riches.

Books in Mistborn Series (12)

A delightful blend of different genres with elements of steampunk, mystery, and Gothic tossed in. It's a unique story that really showcases Well's talents. Death of a Necromancer is Well's best book (some might argue that her Wheel of the Infinite is her best). This is one of those stories that literally drags you along with the non stop action of it, yet still manages to develop complex and empathetic characters.Expect fast paced action, strongly developed relationships between characters, and unforgettable personalities. The author's talent for short yet expressive prose is to be lauded; she has the remarkable ability to paint a complex scene or nuanced dialogue with only a few strokes of her pen; what takes lesser authors a page to do, Well's can do in a few lines.Death Of A Necromancer is fun, dramatic, and one hell of a rip-roaring adventure from start to finish. It's one of the best, most exciting stand alone fantasy books in the genre. If you haven't read it yet, make sure you do.

Books in Ile-rien Series (5)

Amazon Book Description  Once every thousand years the phoenix of Jehanglan burns to death in a magical release. For millennia the emperors of Jehanglan have tried to harness the awesome power of the phoenix's rebirth. One has finally succeeded, using black magic and the enslavement of a dragon. Far away at the Crown of the World, Dragon-lord Linden and his new wife, Maurynna, are trying to live the life of happy newlyweds. But all is not well. Since her first Change into dragon-form, Maurynna has been unable to duplicate it. And as her inability to Change drives her into a dark abyss of depression, Linden begins to doubt the love he was once so sure of... At this time of personal crisis, these two must journey to Jehanglan and marshall all of their diplomatic and martial skill to penetrate the treachery of the empire and set free the phoenix. But to do so they must face the dragon--the dragon who just might be a Dragonlord gone mad....  Another great fantasy book for women. This book is romance masquerading as a fantasy novel. But, it manages to do justice to both genres. Even though romance is the primary force in this novel, the story is very well written and the author has a definite knack for creating exotic landscapes and strong interpersonal relationships. With lots of romantic tension between the two main characters and a strong plot, this is a thoroughly enjoyable book. It's actually one of the better romantic fantasy novels out there. If you enjoy the standard elements of a romance novel with the trappings of a fantasy world, this book will satisfy you.

Books in Dragonlord Series (2)

This series is very well written with strong female and male lead. The author's characterization is very strong and I have a feeling that some women may find this series (and other series by the same author), quite good. I will point out that this author has been well recommended by some of the commentators here as well.
In the Outlander series, Diana Gabaldon reinvents the use of time-travel in fantasy and historical fiction, crafting a thrilling drama set in the 18th and 20th centuries. The series follows Claire Randall, an ex-combat nurse who travels through time to the Highlands of Scotland during the Jacobite rebellion. Gabaldon cleverly employs the use of multiple viewpoints, slowly building a complex cross-era plot. In the process, the author's attention to detail in the characterization of central and supporting character leaves the reader feeling as though they know each and every individual in Gabaldon's world. Gabaldon doesn't shy away from adult themes, blending historical fiction with adventure, mystery and, most importantly, love. While Gabaldon's tale is highly engaging and very digestible reading for fans of the fantasy genre, readers should be aware that the adult themes in her books can have very dark elements, including sexual assault and torture. During these scenarios, Gabaldon's excellent prose can be almost too descriptive at times, especially considering that the book is marketed as a romantic fantasy. This novel would not be recommended for younger teens, however, the fainthearted can easily skip the more gruesome chapters and still follow the story.

Books in Outlander Series (10)

This one’s a pure romance. If you want an emotional fantasy series with some pretty strong characterization and a well-realized world, Rhapsody is the book you're looking for. There are a LOT of the standard conventions pulled right out of a classic “romance novel.” However, where Rhapsody differs from OTHER pure romance fantasy books is that the fantasy world has a bit of work put into it. It’s not a thin backdrop used as the set for some alternative world period romance. It’s actually a real fantasy world (though don't expect anything on the level of Martin's, Jordan's, or other straight epic fantasy worlds).The character Rhapsody brings Mary Suism to a new level, which can be increadibly annoying if you are reading the story for something other than vicarious romatic kicks.But my biggest complaint with this series is that after the first book, the romance aspect actually starts interfering with the story. Still, for a straight out “romantic bodice ripper" mascurading as epic fantasy, Rhapsody is alright. Don't look for anything sophisticated, however.