As the summer draws to a close, here’s a list of the five best fantasy books you just have to read before autumn arrives! All these books aren’t set in the summer, but they’re still the perfect thing to pick up, no strings attached! Whether you like paranormal, high fantasy, or light horror, you’ll find the perfect book to read in the sun (without falling asleep).
If you’re not reading Novik yet, then you’re missing out! This is the perfect standalone to get you started. Set on the outskirts of a terrifyingly magical forest, this book has a dragon (arguably), an unexpected heroine, plenty of violence, and even more magic. If you want a glorious modern story with the feel of a classic fantasy, you’re going to love this book. It’s also got sense, heart, and writing that’ll make you wonder why anyone else even tries.
Black writes a lot of different moods, so if you read fantasy you’ve probably encountered her. The Coldest Girl is and isn’t like anything else. Whether you’re over vampires or completely obsessed, give this book a try. A strong, sensible heroine who never the less gets drawn into danger and horror she thought she’d escaped, this book has both the elegance and horror of the genre, the obsession and the disinterest, as well as characters who step off the page.
Jones is also outrageously prolific. Even if you haven’t read any of her work, you’ve probably seen the Miyazaki adaptation of one of her novels, Howl’s Moving Castle. This is something slightly different, but with Jones’ dry humor, sense of tangible magic, and deeply flawed characters you’ll still absolutely love. Royal succession, a secret magical society, and a digital curse make this book a classic, even if you may not know all the retro computer terms.
You probably don’t know Yovanoff, but you might want to. This book is a little gruesome, but only in the way some old fairy tales are. Sometimes children in Gentry are taken, and Mackie Doyle is what was left. Exploring sacrifice, familial love, and what it means to be different, this is an unusual book that’s worth your consideration. The protagonist is complex, and teeters between selfishness and alarming selflessness. My advice? Read it with the lights on.
It doesn’t matter whether you’re a Lord of the Rings fan or haven’t even seen any of the movies, The Hobbit is self-contained novel that stands on its own. This book is sweet, engaging, frighting, and funny. If you like modern fantasy, here’s it’s start. If you love Tolkien, you know this is a great read and reread, and if you never got into Tolkien and were too afraid to ask, this is a great place to start. Plus, they put the most gorgeous covers on this book now.
Happy Birthday, City of Bones! YA Fantasy superstar Cassandra Clare released her debut (the first entry into the sprawling Shadowhunters universe) on March 27th, 2007, which makes the book twelve years old. That would land it squarely in middle school—a familiar landscape which has nonetheless changed a lot since this book’s release. Some things have, of course, remained the same: children are mean and hormones so rarely help anyone. But there are some major differences—YA is more diverse; genre fiction is booming; and social issues have risen to the forefront of modern discourse.
Image Via Twilight Sleep
Cassandra Clare’s novels have continued to do what they did at their outset: tell stories of characters who don’t often have their stories told. Clare’s LGBT+ rep throughout her body of work hits each of those four letters (and perhaps, soon, we’ll get some of the other letters that come with the +.) Clare has also recently gained attention for autistic representation that transcends superficial stereotypes. Her characters are bombastically human with all that entails—dramatic love stories, deep-seated emotional issues, ridiculous inside jokes. Clare’s obvious love for fantasy and the genre is second only to her understanding of human nature, and it’s obvious her work resonates for innumerable reasons: there are currently more than 50 million copies of her novels in print. The Mortal Instrumentsseries in particular has inspired both a film adaptation and a successful TV series. And, of course, her work has always resonated with me.
Picture this: I’m thirteen. I’m wearing a horrific amount of bright blue eyeliner (read: any amount). I am distinctly not straight. Since it’s not terribly likely you know what I look like, imagine me this way: uncomfortable with everything. City of Bones featured one of the very first LGBT+ couples I ever encountered—withdrawn, struggling Alec and the ever-bold Magnus Bane—and changed the way that I thought about what are currently two of my favorite things: genre fiction and myself.
Image Via @Kayla_Darktale Tumblr
We’d call this a list of books to help you fill the Shadowhunters void—except, of course, that there isn’t one! Cassandra Clare has dutifully (and enthusiastically) expanded her universe’s lore since its inception, with new releases forthcoming in 2019: Chain of Gold, the first entry into a new historical fantasy trilogy, and The Red Scrolls of Magic, the start of a trilogy centered on the magical misadventures of Alec and Magnus. Clare even has a section on her website entitled “where to start,” acknowledging the fact that readers might be a little intimidated by the canon. Some advice on starting? Do it. Immediately.
Image Via Riveted Lit
But if, like me, you’ve already plowed your way through the majority of the seemingly limitless Shadowhunters canon, here’s a delightful mix of 7 Young Adult & New Adult classics to remind you of all that this genre can accomplish.
Is this first on the list because it’s my personal favorite? Yes. Is it first on the list because it’s sure to be your personal favorite? Also yes. It would be a travesty to reduce Maggie Stiefvater‘s quartet to its LGBT+ characters, mostly because it’s so many other things besides strong representation: dangerous, raw, and human as its characters and all the things they want. Bonus content: Molotov cocktails, dead things that are supposed to be alive, alive things that are supposed to be dead. Every possible use of ‘Dick’ as a nickname for Richard. Distinguished boys who, for some reason, continue to wear boat shoes. The feeling of returning home and, for some, the immense desire to leave it. Bees…? One of the most unique series in YA fantasy today, The Raven Cycle is startling, strange, and filled with a cast of characters so real you won’t believe you haven’t really met them. Cassie Clare fans will live for the sarcasm, the limitless wit, the character dynamics, and the positive LGBT+ representation.
In V.E. Schwab‘s delightful, inventive, and ambitious trilogy, four different versions of London exist with varying levels of magic—and equivalent levels of danger. (Spoiler: that level is HIGH.) One is the London of old, one that we might recognize: no magic, lots of crime. One London is magic the way that we might imagine it. One is magic with all the cruelty that magic so often entails. And one—the most magic London of all—no longer exists. Or, at least, it no longer exists in any way that we might recognize. Oh, did that description make these books sound happy and upbeat? They are… when everything’s not busy going very, very wrong. Fans of Jace and Alec’s affectionate-yet-frequently-frustrated brotherly dynamic will love the give-and-take between adopted brothers Kell and Rhy. And it would be quite the challenge to build a world richer than Cassandra Clare’s—whose books are physically large enough to build that world brick by brick. V.E. Schwab’s attention to detail will delight those who are after a detailed lore.
The Magicianshas gotten a lot of attention lately thanks to its SyFy TV adaptation—and if it doesn’t already, it deserves to have yours. This may just be the best book series you ever read about a fictional wizard school (and yes, I do know about the other one). Unlike many fantasy series, which can paint concepts of good and evil in the broadest brushstrokes, The Magicians thoroughly examines all the thematic implications of the fantasy genre, subverting every trope in the process. The humor is frequently raunchy, nihilistic. The magic is even more frequently absurd. And the story is consistently unthinkable in its imagination, pushing the limits of what magic (and the fantasy genre!) can accomplish. Lev Grossman‘s world is as dark and sensual as it is intellectual and calculating—but, in the end, it’s more startlingly earnest than it is anything else, a subversive novel written from a clear love of the genre. Bonus: disaster gays, talking bears who drink Peach Schnapps, a hell that looks like a high school gymnasium, and a story to remind you exactly what storytelling means.
One of the best things about Cassandra Clare’s writing is the never-ending banter, each topic seemingly more ludicrous than the last… and somehow, for all its silliness, it only makes the characters feel more human and their dynamics more sincere. Leigh Bardugo‘s Six of Crowsis a character-driven heist duology set in a richly-realized fantasy world full of crime; corruption; and badass fight scenes, baby! What’s the difference between a heist and a regular robbery, you might ask? Well, it’s pretty simple: a heist is what they call theft when it’s cool. But as fast-paced and high-concept as this well-oiled plot machine may be, it’s also a deeply character-driven story. This misfit (and very queer) cast of characters may or may not steal what they set out to pilfer, but they’ll certainly steal your heart. And possibly crush it—this book has one of the most devastating backstories of all time.
Rainbow Rowell‘s Carry Onisn’t exactly fan-fiction, but it’s certainly fiction written for fandoms. You might call it your average wizard-boarding-school book, except that there’s very little average about it. Carry On is oft called ‘the gay Harry Potter,’ but it’s certainly not derivative—Rowell acknowledges its predecessor in clear ways, and chooses to thoughtfully play with beloved genre tropes. Oh, and you’re not going to find any LGBT+ subtext here—it’s all very much on the page. Rowell herself has commented on the matter of overt representation in Vanity Fair: “there was a time when this had to be subtext… don’t [read] it for the subtext, don’t [read] it for the moments [in BBC’s Sherlock] when Sherlock and John make eye contact and the world sets on fire but none of it’s real. As a culture, we are ready for text.” As a bonus, she also doesn’t think she’s a social justice hero for including a gay couple. “I’m definitely not the first person to write a gay Y.A. story,” she acknowledges, “by a million years.” Regardless, we’re always happy for more! This fun, subversive novel will appeal to pop culture fiends across all fandoms—including Cassandra Clare’s!
Scott Westerfeld‘s gritty urban fantasy is the It Follows of the mid-2000s urban fantasy world: college freshman Cal’s previous girlfriends (read: YA way to say ‘sexual partners’) have been infected with an unusual sort of vampirism. Sure there’s the whole lurking-in-the-darkness thing, but there’s also the anathema—Westerfeld’s vampires are repulsed by everything about their old lives, everything they once loved. (Especially Cal… although that may have something to do with him dropping off his vampire chlamydia.) A New Adult novel before the classification was coined, Peepsand sequel The Last Daysare gritty trysts into the dark supernatural underworld of NYC reminiscent of Clare’s Downworld, where the parties can last as long as some of their attendees’ lifespans. The edgy, fun tone with surprisingly poignant moments is sure to remind audiences of Clare’s own work. This isn’t your average vampire story… probably because it isn’t a vampire story at all. It’s about home, lies, love and equally powerful hatred: things far more human than that.
If you were around when the original three books of The Mortal Instruments were being released—that is, if you weren’t, like, eight years old—you may recall Cassandra Clare and established fantasy writer Holly Black‘s power-couple friendship. (I happen to remember Cassandra Clare’s livestream when she announced that there would be three more books in the series, so it’s safe to say I do.) Author of the children’s classic series The Spiderwick Chronicles, fantasy queen Black gave fans a nod to her close friendship with Cassie by including a mention of Jace and his fellow Shadowhunters in her books! In turn, Clare mentions the protagonist of Valiantin her trilogy as well. Does she use Valerie’s name? No. But which other bald junkie who lurks with the fey folk in subway tunnels could the unnamed character possibly be? Given that Black’s series (urban fantasy, NYC, chaotic fey) fits in quite naturally with Clare’s Downworlder mythology, it’s an excellent companion series.
Valentine’s Day is closer than ever, and let’s be real—some of us are going to need a date with a book. (And if you’re currently reading a book that’s not quite meeting your literary needs, you can always have an affair.) As the month drags on and the nights get lonely, it’s best to have a book by your side that you can really fall in love with. Our picks for the week range in subject matter from gripping political non-fiction, capricious fey, and the ever-more-relatable anxiety about the future. Here are Bookstr’s Three to Read: the three books we’ve picked for you to read this week!
OUR HOT PICK
Nobel Peace Prize-winner Malala Yousafzai will start with her own story of displacement as an Internally Displaced Person to show what it means to lose your home, your community, and the only world you’ve ever known. She will also share the personal stories of some of the girls she has met on her various journeys to refugee camps and the cities where refugee girls and their families have settled.
In a time of immigration crises, war, and border conflicts, We Are Displaced is a reminder from one of the world’s most famous people who experienced displacement that everyone deserves universal human rights and a home.
Pakistani activist Malala Yousafzai is the youngest person to win the Nobel Prize. From the age of eleven, Malala fought for education, anonymously writing for BBC about life under the Taliban regime. A survivor of a direct shot to the head, Malala’s story couldn’t be stopped even with a bullet. Kirkus Reviews‘ starred review called it “a poignant, fascinating, and relevant read.” We Are Displacedis something of a collective memoir, a unique exploration in communal storytelling. As Malala conveys her own story, she also introduces readers to the faces behind the grave statistics: 68.5 million displaced people around the world. Often, these are young people. Always, these are people who have experienced immense loss. This thought-provoking and timely work is a perfect choice to better understand the world and people in it.
OUR COFFEE SHOP READ
You must be strong enough to strike and strike and strike again without tiring.
The first lesson is to make yourself strong.
After the jaw-dropping revelation that Oak is the heir to Faerie, Jude must keep her younger brother safe. To do so, she has bound the wicked king, Cardan, to her, and made herself the power behind the throne. Navigating the constantly shifting political alliances of Faerie would be difficult enough if Cardan were easy to control. But he does everything in his power to humiliate and undermine her even as his fascination with her remains undiminished.
When it becomes all too clear that someone close to Jude means to betray her, threatening her own life and the lives of everyone she loves, Jude must uncover the traitor and fight her own complicated feelings for Cardan to maintain control as a mortal in a Faerie world.
Holly Black has been one of the biggest names in YA fantasy for well over a decade. In 2002, Black published her debut novel Tithe, a gritty, unflinching, and terribly delightful urban fantasy novel. Through her White Cat trilogy (it’s the magical mafia; the plot twist is how many amazing plot twists there are), Magisterium Series (co-authored with best friend and bestseller Cassandra Clare), and other unique hits, Black proved her skill at finding that eerie liminal space where magic and reality meet. The Wicked King is the sequel to New York Times and USA Today bestselling The Cruel Prince. Booklist‘s starred review called the follow-up “brutally beautiful.” This one’s guaranteed to be wicked fun.
OUR DARK HORSE
Freshman year at Harvard was the most anticlimactic year of Danny’s life. She’s failing pre-med and drifting apart from her best friend. One by one, Danny is losing all the underpinnings of her identity. When she finds herself attracted to an older, edgy girl who she met in rehab for an eating disorder, she finally feels like she might be finding a new sense of self. But when tragedy strikes, her self-destructive tendencies come back to haunt her as she struggles to discover who that self really is.
Florence Gonsalves published Love & Other Carnivorous Objectsjust three years after graduating college, risking it all to become the novelist she aspired to be. The novel is as brave as its author, tackling difficult (and often taboo) topics: drug abuse, mental health issues, and the question of sexual orientation—a question that doesn’t always come with an obvious answer. As in her life, Gonsalves handles the challenges with humor and expertise. Since the novel came out early in 2018, you might have missed it. There’s no need to make the same mistake twice.
Holly Black is the dark queen of urban fantasy. From cruelly shocking to tender and sensitive, her words capture the reader’s attention and hold it hostage until the end of the end of the book, and even after the last page. Author of the best-selling books, The Darkest Part of the Forest and The Cruel Prince, Holly Black is a well-known fantasy author who has forever changed the landscape of young adult fiction.
Here are ten quotes from Holly Black’s books showcasing the author’s sharp wit and gothic eloquence.
1. “Every hero is the villain of his own story.”
― The Coldest Girl in Coldtown
2. “If she was going to die, she might as well die sarcastic.”
― The Coldest Girl in Coldtown
3. “Most of all, I hate you because I think of you. Often. It’s disgusting, and I can’t stop.”
― The Cruel Prince
4. “Even from the beginning, that was the problem. People liked pretty things. People even liked pretty things that wanted to kill and eat them.”
― The Coldest Girl in Coldtown
5. “Nice things don’t happen in storybooks. Or when they do happen, something bad happens next. Because otherwise the story would be boring, and no one would read it.”
― The Cruel Prince
6. “I need to stop fantasizing about running away to some other life and start figuring out the one I have.”
― The Darkest Part of the Forest
7. “That’s family for you. Can’t live with them, can’t murder them.”
― Black Heart
8. “If you hurt me, I wouldn’t cry. I would hurt you back.”
― The Cruel Prince
9. “Well fine, then. I could send you out to win my favor. Possibly on a quest involving bringing a large mug of coffee and a doughnut. Or the wholesale slaughter of all my enemies. I haven’t decided which.”
― The Darkest Part of the Forest
10. “I become if I stopped worrying about death, about pain, about anything? If I stopped trying to belong? Instead of being afraid, I could become something to fear.”
Summer is the perfect season for audiobook; whether you’re dilly-dallying on your way to work, trying to make the most of your moments in the sun, sunbathing on any available surface, or, if you’re super lucky, going on vacation (woohoo!).
We’ve rounded up the smoothest voices in Hollywood we would love to hear, and the books we think would best suit them!
1. Julie Andrews
Julie’s soothing lilt has cropped up in some of our favorite fairy-tale films such as ‘The Princess Diaries’ and ‘Enchanted,’ not to mention the classic ‘Mary Poppins.’ Everything her tender tones touch seems to turn to gold.
Since she’s already an old-hand at all things princess, we think Francis Hodgson Burnett’s ‘A Little Princess‘ would be perfect. A childhood favorite of many, this moving novel follows Sarah, who, having grown up in India, is sent to boarding school in England when her father is conscripted.
2. Morgan Freeman
Morgan Freeman must have the most beloved voice in Hollywood, and we can’t think of anything we wouldn’t want to hear his rich tones recite! We’d happily listen to him reading the phone book, a take-out menu, a list of every type of lawnmower ever manufactured, the ingredients in a tin of Spam…ANYTHING.
…BUT, given the choice, we would love to hear him read Cormac McCarthy’s ‘The Road.’ This dystopian tale follows a father and son as they make their way across bleak landscapes. We think Freeman’s famous voice would lend a wonderful dimension to this dark story.
3. Cate Blanchett
Blanchett’s narration at the start of the Lord of the Rings movies is pretty intoxicating, her voice at once soothing and powerful just like you might expect from an elven queen.
Blanchett is such a versatile actor, filling roles as diverse as Bob Dylan, Katharine Hepburn, and Queen Elizabeth I. With this in mind, we’d love to hear her reading ‘A Series of Unfortunate Events.’ Lemony Snicket’s best-selling series boasts an ever-changing cast of characters as well as some constants (like Count Olaf) who are constantly cropping up under different guises. The books are narrated by the character Lemony Snicket, but given the various male roles Blanchett has taken on before, we’re sure she’d pull it off.
4. Idris Elba
Everybody loves Idris Elba’s cheeky London twang, and we know from his various roles that he’s capable of affecting many different accents.
Touted by many as being the perfect successor to Daniel Craig in the role of 007, we would love to hear Elba reading Ian Fleming’s James Bond books. It’s looking unlikely that he will land the role, due to scheduling conflicts, but hearing him read the books would definitely be the next best thing!
5. Kristen Stewart
We can’t get enough of Stewart’s laid-back, husky voice which always lends serious believability to her acting.
We’d love to hear Stewart narrate ‘Tithe‘ by ‘The Spiderwick Chronicles’ author Holly Black. This dark modern day fairy tale is narrated by deadpan teenager Kay who spends her days touring with her mother’s band until she is sucked into the dark world of faerie-land. Stewart’s chilled out, authentic voice would be perfect for this cool character, not to mention she has experience voicing characters unwittingly sucked into supernatural worlds!
7. Evanna Lynch
‘Harry Potter’s’ Luna Lovegood has one of the most soothing voices in Hollywood, and one we don’t get to hear enough. Hailing from Louth, Ireland, she already has audiobook experience, narrating ‘Foster’ by Irish author Claire Keegan.
We think Evanna would be perfect to narrate Sarah Maria Griffin’s new YA sci-fi novel ‘Spare and Found Parts.‘ Set in dystopian Dublin, Ireland, this story follows Nell who sets about building her own companion out of spare parts.
Featured Image Courtesy of The Telegraph and Goodreads