I decided to curated my top 40 adult fantasy books, a hand-picked selection of literary gems that have captivated my imagination in the past couple of years. Each of these books holds a special place in my heart, and I can honestly say that I loved every single one of them! Of course, there are hundreds of awesome adult fantasy books out there, but these are my top picks that I always recommend friends and family. And I know that finding new books to read can be challenging sometimes, so I thought I can help with the task.
This is a fairly diverse list of adult fantasy, offering something for every reader’s taste. Some of these novels fall into the category of new adult fantasy, with a dash of spice and romance to keep you enthralled. Others harken back to the classic, old-school fantasy tradition, whisking you away on epic adventures in uncharted realms.
I’ve curated this list intending to cater to all fantasy enthusiasts – those who crave a blend of romance and magic, as well as those who yearn for the timeless thrill of high-fantasy escapades. The books on this list are not ranked in any particular order, but I must admit that Fourth Wing by Rebecca Yarros holds a special place in my heart as my absolute favourite book of all time.
Whether you’re seeking a thrilling new fantasy series or a nostalgic journey into the realms of classic fantasy, this list of adult fantasy books has something magical in store for you.
Top Adult Fantasy Books
In Rebecca Yarros’ gripping novel, Violet Sorrengail is unexpectedly pulled away from a quiet life among books to join a war college for dragon riders. Tasked by her mother, the tough general, she faces the elite but dangerous world of Navarre’s dragon riders. Violet, smaller and more fragile than her peers, is in constant danger, as dragons usually reject the ‘fragile’. Many cadets, eyeing their own advancement or bearing grudges against her mother, see her as a target. Among them is Xaden Riorson, a formidable wingleader. With a war intensifying outside and dark secrets within, Violet’s survival hinges on her sharp wits in a place where the only ways out are either graduation or death.
In the intense sequel to Rebecca Yarros’ novel, Violet Sorrengail faces brutal challenges in her second year at Basgiath War College. Having narrowly survived the first year, she now confronts a grueling training regime and a vice commandant determined to prove her powerless, possibly forcing her to betray a loved one. Despite her physical frailty, Violet’s sharp wit and iron will are her strengths. She discovers a centuries-old secret at Basgiath, a revelation so grave that even her resilience and dragon might not be enough to confront it. This year, survival hinges on more than just determination.
Poppy, chosen since birth as the Maiden, leads a life devoid of touch, gaze, and speech, bound by solitude until her Ascension. Despite her role in a prophecy that holds the kingdom’s fate, she yearns for a life beyond the confines of her duties. Her world upends with the arrival of Hawke, a golden-eyed guard tasked with ensuring her Ascension. Hawke challenges her beliefs, stirring a conflict between duty, desire, and the forbidden. Meanwhile, a forsaken kingdom, abandoned by gods and feared by mortals, threatens to rise in vengeance. As danger looms, Poppy grapples with her heart’s desires and her role in a world on the brink of chaos, where the line between right and forbidden blurs, risking her heart, worthiness, and life itself.
Oraya, the human adoptive daughter of the Nightborn vampire king, strives to transcend her prey status in a world where trust is a liability. Her path to power leads to the Kejari, a deadly tournament hosted by the goddess of death. Amidst fierce competitors from vampire houses, Oraya allies with Raihn, a dangerous and efficient vampire, and an enemy to her father. This alliance challenges Oraya as she’s unexpectedly drawn to him, risking her heart in a realm where love is lethal. As war looms within the House of Night, Oraya discovers that Raihn may understand her deepest self. Yet, their growing attraction could be her undoing in a kingdom where emotions are as dangerous as the enemies they face. “The Serpent and the Wings of Night” offers a tale of intense romance, dark magic, and treacherous intrigue, appealing to fans of heart-wrenching fantasy romances.
Lara, a warrior princess trained in seclusion, is certain of two things: King Aren of the Bridge Kingdom is her foe, and she’s destined to defeat him. Sent as a bride to infiltrate this kingdom, which thrives by controlling a vital bridge in a storm-ravaged world, Lara plans to break its defenses from within. However, as she learns more about the kingdom and its king, her perspective shifts. Lara’s initial hostility towards Aren turns into passionate love, blurring the lines between hero and villain. Torn between her homeland and newfound love, Lara faces a harrowing choice between saving one kingdom and destroying the other. “The Bridge Kingdom” is a tale of intense passion and conflict, appealing to fans of fantasy romance and dramatic narratives.
In a world where blood color determines your destiny, Mare Barrow, a seventeen-year-old Red girl from the impoverished Stilts, finds herself thrust into the world of the Silver elite, rulers with god-like powers. Surprisingly, Mare discovers she has a unique and deadly power despite her Red blood, upsetting the societal balance. The Silvers, fearful of her potential, disguise her as a lost Silver princess and betroth her to a Silver prince. While navigating this perilous charade, Mare covertly aids the Red Guard, a group fighting to overthrow the Silver regime. In this treacherous landscape of betrayals, Mare is caught in a deadly dance of Red against Silver, prince against prince, and a personal struggle against her own conflicted heart.
This epic historical military fantasy, set in a world inspired by China’s tumultuous 20th century, follows Rin, a war orphan from Rooster Province who unexpectedly aces the Empire-wide test. She gains entry to Sinegard, the prestigious military school in Nikan, facing challenges due to her background and gender. Rin discovers her formidable shamanic abilities and learns about gods long thought dead. With the threat of a Third Poppy War looming, she must harness her powers to save her people, but the cost might be her humanity.
Bryce Quinlan enjoyed a carefree life of hard work and parties until a demon murdered her closest friends, leaving her devastated and alone. When the killings continue despite the accused being in custody, Bryce becomes central to the investigation, determined to seek justice. Hunt Athalar, a notorious Fallen angel enslaved to the Archangels, is offered a deal to assist Bryce in finding the murderer in exchange for his freedom. Together, they uncover a dark threat, igniting a passionate connection that could set them both free. This fantasy series by Sarah J. Maas explores loss, freedom, and the strength of love in a gripping tale.
In a distant era where seasons are erratic, with summers lasting for decades and winters stretching a lifetime, a looming crisis threatens the land. Sinister forces gather beyond the protective Wall in the frozen north of Winterfell, while to the south, the king’s rule weakens. The Starks of Winterfell, a stern and unyielding family, find themselves at the heart of this turmoil. Lord Eddard Stark is reluctantly appointed as the king’s Hand, a move that risks tearing apart not only his family but the entire kingdom. “A Game of Thrones” weaves a gripping tale of lords, ladies, soldiers, sorcerers, and intrigue, where power-hungry factions vie for control in a perilous struggle for the throne.
Narrated by Kvothe himself, “The Name of the Wind” chronicles the life of a young man gifted with magic who would become the world’s most infamous wizard. It delves into his early years within a traveling troupe, his time as a resourceful orphan in a crime-ridden city, his audacious journey to enroll in a renowned school of magic, and his life on the run following the murder of a king. This coming-of-age tale combines high-action storytelling with poetic prose, offering readers a masterful and immersive experience as they delve into the mind and adventures of a wizard.
In a desolate world plagued by ash and oppression for a thousand years, Kelsier, a gifted thief, discovers he possesses Mistborn powers, setting his sights on an audacious heist to overthrow the tyrannical Lord Ruler. Alongside a team of skilled allomancers, Kelsier’s plan seems near impossible until he encounters Vin, a wary half-Skaa orphan with untapped abilities. Together, they navigate a treacherous world of betrayal and danger in Brandon Sanderson’s genre-defying tale, “Mistborn,” where the hero’s failure to defeat the Dark Lord leads to a fresh perspective on fantasy storytelling.
In a divided world, the House of Berethnet has ruled Inys for a millennium. Queen Sabran the Ninth, still without an heir, must bear a daughter to safeguard her kingdom from impending doom. However, assassins draw closer. Ead Duryan, a court outsider and member of a clandestine mage society, secretly shields Sabran with forbidden magic. Far across the sea, Tané, a dragonrider-in-training, faces a life-altering decision. As the East and West remain in discord, and ancient threats awaken, a tale of intrigue, magic, and impending chaos unfolds.
In 1714 France, a young woman, in a moment of despair, strikes a Faustian deal for eternal life but is cursed to be forgotten by everyone she encounters. Thus begins Addie LaRue’s extraordinary and lonely existence, spanning centuries and continents. She strives to make her mark on the world, but her fate changes when, after nearly 300 years, a chance encounter in a hidden bookstore leads to a young man who remembers her name, altering the course of her timeless life.
Kell is a rare Antari, possessing the ability to traverse between parallel Londons: Red, Grey, White, and the long-lost Black. Officially serving as an ambassador for the Maresh Empire in Red London, he unofficially moonlights as a smuggler, offering glimpses of other worlds to those willing to pay. When a risky exchange goes wrong, Kell escapes to Grey London, where he encounters Delilah Bard, a thief with big dreams. After a series of events, they embark on a perilous journey, facing treacherous magic and danger to preserve the multiverse.
Galaxy “Alex” Stern, an unlikely Yale freshman, grew up in the outskirts of Los Angeles, plagued by a troubled past involving drug-dealer boyfriends and a gruesome unsolved homicide. At twenty, she becomes the lone survivor of this horrific event. Unexpectedly, Alex is offered a second chance: a full scholarship to one of the world’s most prestigious universities. However, there’s a catch she doesn’t yet understand. She arrives in New Haven with a mission: to monitor Yale’s secretive and enigmatic societies. These underground “tombs” are frequented by future elites, but their occult activities turn out to be far more sinister and extraordinary than anyone could have imagined.
“The Way of Kings,” the first book in Brandon Sanderson’s epic series, The Stormlight Archive, unveils the world of Roshar, characterized by stone and relentless storms that have shaped its ecology and civilizations. Centuries have passed since the fall of the Knights Radiant, but their mystical Shardblades and Shardplate remain highly sought after, driving wars and trade. Kaladin, once a medical apprentice, becomes a slave on the Shattered Plains, fighting in a senseless war. Brightlord Dalinar Kholin questions his sanity as he experiences haunting visions. Meanwhile, Shallan, an aspiring scholar, uncovers secrets that could change the course of the war. This monumental work sets the stage for a rich and expansive fantasy series.
“The Fifth Season” depicts a world teetering on destruction. In a single day, Essun discovers her husband’s heinous act and embarks on a quest to find her kidnapped daughter in a world plagued by disasters. A great red rift splits the continent, releasing ash that shrouds the sky. With resources scarce, nations battle not for power but for survival. Essun, determined to save her daughter, will stop at nothing, even if it means breaking the world herself. This story of resilience unfolds against the backdrop of an impending apocalypse.
“Jade City” offers a gripping narrative akin to “The Godfather,” featuring intergenerational blood feuds, ruthless politics, magic, and martial arts. The Kaul family is one of two crime syndicates controlling Kekon, the sole source of magical jade, which grants superhuman abilities to those with the right heritage and training. Once protectors of the island from foreign threats, the Green Bone clans now engage in commerce and city management. When tensions with rival clans escalate into violent conflict, the outcome will shape the future of Kekon and all its Green Bone families
“The Night Circus” introduces a mysterious and enchanting spectacle, Le Cirque des Rêves, which appears without warning, existing only at night within black-and-white striped tents. Unbeknownst to its visitors, a fierce competition unfolds between two young magicians, Celia and Marco, trained since childhood for this purpose by their enigmatic mentors. Though their deep, magical love for each other complicates matters, they are locked in a duel where only one can survive. As the fate of the circus and its inhabitants hangs in the balance, this spellbinding tale of love and magic unfolds with rich, captivating prose, creating a sensory and emotional feast for readers.
Nahri, a streetwise con artist in 18th-century Cairo, has always considered magic a mere illusion, relying on her cunning to swindle Ottoman nobles through palm readings and healings. However, her world shatters when she accidentally summons a mysterious djinn warrior, revealing that the magical realm of childhood tales is real. The warrior introduces Nahri to a new reality, taking her on a journey through fantastical landscapes to Daevabad, the legendary city of brass. There, within the enchantment-laden walls and amidst political turmoil, Nahri discovers the brutal nature of true power and the perilous intricacies of court politics. As she navigates this treacherous world, she learns that wishes can have deadly consequences, and magic won’t shield her from its harsh realities.
In “A Court of Thorns and Roses,” nineteen-year-old huntress Feyre faces dire consequences after killing a wolf in the woods. She’s taken to a treacherous magical realm, discovering that her captor, Tamlin, is not a true beast but an immortal faerie. As Feyre adjusts to her new home, her initial hostility towards Tamlin transforms into a passionate love. However, an ancient malevolent force threatens the faerie lands, and Feyre must find a way to stop it to save Tamlin and his world. Sarah J. Maas weaves romance, adventure, and faerie mythology into an enchanting and unforgettable tale.
“Vicious” by V. E. Schwab is a masterful tale of ambition, envy, longing, and superhuman abilities. Victor and Eli, brilliant and arrogant college roommates, share a fascination with adrenaline, near-death experiences, and the potential for extraordinary powers. When their research turns from theory to experimentation, it goes terribly awry. A decade later, Victor escapes from prison with a vendetta against Eli, while Eli is on a mission to eliminate super-powered individuals. Both are armed with formidable abilities, driven by betrayal and loss, in a riveting story where heroism isn’t guaranteed, and allegiances are tested. Schwab paints a gritty comic-book-style world with vivid prose, blurring the lines between hero and villain.
In a distant realm where royal family members are named for their virtues, a young boy stands as an enigma. Fitz, the illegitimate son of Chivalry Farseer, finds himself an outcast from birth. Friendless and abandoned, his only solace lies in his magical bond with animals, a forbidden art called the Wit. When Fitz is taken into the royal household, he must forsake his old life and adopt one of weaponry, education, court etiquette, and the clandestine skills of an assassin, training to become a lethal instrument of the monarchy.
In “Circe,” a daughter is born in the house of Helios, the sun god and mightiest of the Titans. Unlike her powerful father or seductive mother, Circe is peculiar. Seeking companionship among mortals, she discovers her own unique strength: the power of witchcraft. Her abilities can transform rivals into monsters and threaten even the gods. Zeus, feeling threatened, exiles her to a deserted island, where she refines her magic, tames wild beasts, and encounters famous mythological figures. However, Circe’s isolation draws the wrath of both men and gods, leading to a showdown with a formidable Olympian. To protect what she holds dear, Circe must harness her strength and decide whether she belongs with the gods or the mortals she’s grown to love.
“The Eye of the World” begins with the eternal cycle of Ages, where memories turn into legends and legends into myths, only to be forgotten when the Age returns. In a world threatened by the malevolent Dark One, Moiraine Damodred arrives in Emond’s Field on a quest to find the prophesized savior. When half-human, half-beast creatures attack the village in search of their master’s foe, Moiraine convinces Rand al’Thor and his friends to leave their home and embark on a perilous journey. They enter an expansive world filled with hidden dangers lurking in both the light and the shadows, setting the stage for a gripping epic adventure.
In “The Blade Itself,” Logen Ninefingers, an infamous barbarian, finds himself on the brink of death due to his many feuds. Captain Jezal dan Luthar, a self-centered nobleman, is more focused on card games and personal glory. However, a looming war in the frozen North brings brutal conflicts and new rules of engagement. Inquisitor Glokta, a former cripple turned torturer, seeks vengeance against Jezal. Amidst this chaos, the wizard Bayaz enters the scene, and as murderous conspiracies surface, old grudges resurface, blurring the line between hero and villain in a world where survival is paramount.
In “A Discovery of Witches,” Diana Bishop, a young scholar descended from a long line of witches, unintentionally summons a bewitched alchemical manuscript while researching in Oxford’s Bodleian Library. Despite her reluctance to embrace her magical heritage, her discovery triggers a series of events drawing daemons, witches, and vampires to the library. Diana possesses the key to a coveted treasure lost for centuries. Debut novelist Deborah Harkness combines history and magic, romance and suspense, in a tale where Diana finds an equal in vampire geneticist Matthew Clairmont. Their growing alliance defies ancient taboos, creating a captivating and contemporary story reminiscent of Anne Rice’s novels with a touch of historical realism.
In “The Atlas Six,” the Alexandrian Society is a secretive group of magicians tasked with preserving lost knowledge from ancient civilizations. Every decade, six exceptionally talented magicians are considered for initiation into the society, promising a life of wealth and prestige. Among the latest candidates are Libby and Nico, who control physicality; Reina, a naturalist who understands the language of life; Parisa, a telepath delving into the human subconscious; Callum, an empath who influences inner selves; and Tristan, who sees through illusions to a new reality. Under the guidance of Atlas Blakely, they have a year to prove themselves, but only five will be initiated, leaving one eliminated. The candidates must compete, collaborate, and confront the mysteries of magic to secure their future in this thrilling story of ambition and competition.
In “Babel” by R. F. Kuang, set in 1828, Robin Swift, an orphan from Canton, is taken to London by Professor Lovell after the cholera outbreak in his hometown. He undergoes rigorous training in Latin, Ancient Greek, and Chinese in preparation for his enrollment at the Royal Institute of Translation, also known as Babel, at Oxford University. Babel is the world’s center for translation and magic, specifically silver-working, which empowers the British Empire in its quest for colonization. As a Chinese boy raised in Britain, Robin grapples with the conflict between loyalty to Babel and his homeland. He becomes entangled with the Hermes Society, a group opposing imperial expansion, and faces the choice of whether change can come from within powerful institutions or if revolution necessitates violence, especially when Britain wages an unjust war against China over silver and opium.
Sancia Grado is a skilled thief tasked with stealing a powerful artifact from a heavily guarded warehouse in Tevanne. Unbeknownst to her, the object holds the potential to revolutionize scriving, a magical technology that controls everyday objects using coded commands. The Merchant Houses, who control scriving and have transformed Tevanne into a ruthless capitalist hub, seek the artifact’s secrets to reshape the world to their advantage. Now, Sancia must contend with deadly enemies within the Houses while marshaling unexpected allies, harnessing the artifact’s power, and undergoing a transformation that will lead her down an unforeseen path to survival.
Callypso Lillis, a siren, bears a bracelet of black beads, each representing a magical favor she owes. These debts, accrued over seven years, can only be settled by repayment or death. Known as the Bargainer, he’s the go-to for those needing favors, infamous for always collecting his dues. However, he’s never reclaimed his debts from Callie—until now. When he appears in her room, their past romance reignites, starting with a single kiss for a bead’s debt. Beyond personal matters, the Bargainer faces a crisis in the Otherworld: missing fae warriors, women returned in glass caskets with children, and whispers of a reawakened evil. To save his people, he needs Callie’s help, but she’s also at risk, being a prized target for the malevolent force they face.
Linus Baker is a quiet, middle-aged man who works as a Case Worker at the Department in Charge Of Magical Youth. His job involves overseeing the well-being of children in government-sanctioned orphanages. However, his life takes an unexpected turn when he’s summoned by Extremely Upper Management for a classified assignment: he must travel to Marsyas Island Orphanage, where six unique and potentially dangerous children reside. Linus is tasked with evaluating whether these children pose a threat to the world. As he delves into this mission, he discovers not only the secrets of the children but also a surprising connection with their enigmatic caretaker, Arthur Parnassus. This heartwarming and enchanting tale explores the themes of family, acceptance, and the bonds that can form in unexpected places.
“The Bone Shard Daughter” by Andrea Stewart is set in an empire ruled by an emperor who controls bone shard magic to power animal-like constructs that maintain order. The story follows Lin, the emperor’s daughter, who is determined to prove herself as the rightful heir to the throne. She sets out to master the forbidden art of bone shard magic, but the power comes with a heavy cost. As a revolution threatens the empire, Lin must make difficult choices about the extent of her power and what she’s willing to do to save her people and claim her birthright. This fantasy novel explores themes of power, identity, and sacrifice in a richly imagined world.
“The Bear and the Nightingale” by Katherine Arden is set in the Russian wilderness where winter lasts most of the year, and the snowdrifts grow taller than houses. The story revolves around Vasilisa, a young girl who loves listening to her nurse’s chilling fairy tales, especially the one about Frost, the blue-eyed winter demon who claims unwary souls. When her mother dies, her devout and city-bred stepmother arrives, forbidding the family from honoring the household spirits. As a result, misfortune befalls the village, and Vasilisa must use her hidden gifts to protect her family from the impending threat. This debut novel weaves a magical and captivating tale set in a richly atmospheric Russian landscape.
“Black Sun” by Rebecca Roanhorse is a captivating fantasy novel set in a world inspired by Pre-Columbian Americas. In the holy city of Tova, a rare solar eclipse coincides with the winter solstice, setting in motion a tale of prophecy, intrigue, and forbidden magic. A disgraced Teek captain, Xiala, and a mysterious passenger named Serapio journey to Tova, their fates intertwined. This richly imagined book explores power, destiny, and choice in a unique and culturally diverse setting.
In Neil Gaiman’s “American Gods,” Shadow, a man just released from prison, faces tragedy as his wife dies suddenly. On his journey home, he encounters Mr. Wednesday, a mysterious figure who claims to be a former god and king of America. As they travel across the USA, they find themselves caught in a supernatural storm of epic proportions. Gaiman’s novel delves into the soul of America, exploring its myths, gods, and the unsettling aspects of its identity, making for a gripping and thought-provoking read.
In “Uprooted” by Naomi Novik, Agnieszka lives in a quiet village near the corrupted Wood, protected by the enigmatic wizard known as the Dragon. Every ten years, the Dragon chooses a young woman from the village to serve him in exchange for his protection against the Wood’s malevolent power. Agnieszka fears for her friend Kasia, who seems the obvious choice, but when the time comes, it’s Agnieszka herself who is selected. As she serves the Dragon, Agnieszka discovers her own magical abilities and becomes entangled in a battle against the dark forces of the Wood.
In “Gideon the Ninth” by Tamsyn Muir, Gideon is a swordswoman who is tired of her life serving as a servant in the Ninth House, surrounded by undead and nuns. She plans to escape her grim existence, but her nemesis, Harrowhark Nonagesimus, who is a powerful necromancer, summons her for a crucial mission. The Emperor has called for a trial of skill, and if Harrowhark succeeds, she’ll gain immense power. However, she needs Gideon’s sword to do so. Reluctantly, Gideon agrees, and they both become embroiled in a deadly competition with dark secrets and challenges.
The Omehi people have been engaged in a seemingly endless war for centuries. Some individuals possess extraordinary powers, like the ability to call down dragons or transform into formidable fighters. However, the majority of the population lacks these gifts and are fated to become soldiers in the ongoing conflict. Tau, a young man without special abilities, plans to escape the war and live a peaceful life. But when tragedy strikes and he loses his loved ones, he becomes consumed by vengeance. Determined to seek retribution against those who wronged him, Tau embarks on a perilous journey to become an unparalleled swordsman and avenge his losses.
Miryem comes from a family of moneylenders who struggle financially due to her father’s inability to collect debts. Determined to change her family’s fortune, Miryem takes it upon herself to collect the outstanding debts, earning a reputation for her ability to turn silver into gold. However, her boastful claims catch the attention of the Staryk, eerie fey beings with an affinity for ice. The nameless Staryk king presents her with an impossible challenge, setting in motion a series of events that involve a peasant girl named Wanda and the daughter of a local lord who hopes to marry her off to the enigmatic tsar. As the story unfolds, secrets are revealed, alliances are formed, and Miryem, along with her unexpected allies, embarks on a perilous quest that could affect both human and Staryk realms. “Spinning Silver” weaves together elements of myth and fairy tale in a captivating narrative filled with sacrifice, power, and love.