I don’t remember the first fantasy novel I ever read but I do remember the first one I fell in love with. JRR Tolkien’s THE HOBBIT captivated me like no other book had, taking me on a long and winding quest where creatures of legend lived and breathed. Since that long-ago time in 8th grade, I’ve soared on the backs of dragons with Anne McCaffrey, attended wizarding school with Harry Potter and JK Rowling, and gone on a quest with a talking cat with Tad Williams.
Diving into other worlds is one of the biggest allures of fantasy novels. Marshall Ryan Maresca has done a marvelous job at world building, crafting four series set in the same world. THE THORN OF DENTONHILL, the first book in the Maradaine series, caught my attention initially and features a mage student at the local university who has a secret life as a crime fighter against a major crime boss. The Madalaine Constabulary series now has three books in it, including the most recent one, A PARLIAMENT OF BODIES. Not only is the Madalaine Constabulary series my favorite of the four, but A PARLIAMENT OF BODIES is my favorite book out of all of his books. The intertwining pieces are starting to fit together as we have references to the Thorn and includes characters from the Streets of Maradaine and the Maradaine Elite series. Marshall Ryan Maresca expertly weaves together the various perspectives of law enforcement, thieves, warriors, and a local mage student and his friends. Each group views the troubles in Maradaine differently, and it’s the sheer brilliance of Marshall Ryan Maresca that is pulling these diverse perspectives together to show us one heck of an underlying conspiracy!
Jennifer Estep is another master at world building as her Crown of Shards series takes us into the political intrigues and assassinations surrounding the Queen of Bellona. It’s hard to say a lot about this phenomenal series without revealing a lot of spoilers so just know I lost a lot of sleep reading each book as it made its way to my hands! The first book, KILL THE QUEEN, delves into just how diabolical the political intrigues can be as we start to get a sense of the court of Bellona, along with meeting the Black Swan gladiator troupe. The inner workings of the gladiators are fascinating and add a whole new depth to the world building! Jennifer Estep crafts a world where very few can be trusted and the heroine, Evie, must always watch her back. The second book in the series, PROTECT THE PRINCE, starts to expand the world past Bellona as Evie travels to Andvari in an attempt to secure a new alliance with them. I love how Jennifer Estep mixes in action with world building as we have these beautiful descriptions of the ornate Andvari court soon followed by intense action scenes with assassins.
Maxym M. Martineau’s first book in <i>The Beast Charmer</i> series, KINGDOM OF EXILES is yet another stunningly good fantasy tale. We meet Leena Edenfrell, an exiled Charmer with a bounty on her head. Leena has her own bestiary and it’s fun getting to know some of the creatures who inhabit Maxym M. Martineau’s world. As KINGDOM OF EXILES is only the first book in the series, we are just starting to get an idea of the breadth and scope of the world. The world of the Cruor assassins is almost as fascinating as that of the Charmers and I look forward to spending more time in this richly envisioned world where creatures as vastly different as Poof and the Mistari exist!
And lastly, but definitely not the least, is one of my personal favorites in the genre: Anne Bishop and her two series set in the same world, The Others and The World of the Others. Anne Bishop entranced me years ago with her Black Jewels series, but the two series featuring the Others blow me away! Set in an alternate version of Earth where humans are not the top predators, The Others delves into deep issues such as racism, diversity, and slavery/human trafficking through a fictional world. The earth is populated by humans, terra indigene, the cassandra sangue, Elementals, and the all too fearsome and deadly Elders. WRITTEN IN RED first introduces us to this world and four more books focus on the events of the Lakeside Courtyard as we get to see how the world politics impact a small group of individuals we grow to love. ETCHED IN BONE is the last book to focus on the Lakeside Courtyard, but fortunately Anne Bishop expands the world outside of Lakeside and we visit two new towns trying to follow the format of Lakeside in LAKE SILENCE and WILD COUNTRY. If you love dark fantasy, then Anne Bishop’s The Others series should be on your shelves!
I’ve mentioned only a sampling of the great fantasy novels I’ve had the pleasure of reading recently but there are far more out there as the genre is still going strong. What are some of your favorite fantasy novels?
SOME OF THE BOOKS MENTIONED IN THIS ARTICLE:
Maradaine Constabulary #3
Mixing high fantasy and mystery, the third book in the Maradaine Constabulary series follows Inspectors Satrine Rainey and Minox Welling as they track down a dangerous murderer.
The city of Maradaine is vexed by the Gearbox Murders: a series of gruesome deaths orchestrated by a twisted mechanical genius. With no motive and no pattern, Inspectors Satrine Rainey and Minox Welling–the retired spy and untrained mage–are at a loss to find a meaningful lead in the case. At least, until the killer makes his most audacious exhibit yet: over a dozen victims in a clockwork deathtrap on the floor of the Druth Parliament.
The crime scene is a madhouse, and political forces conspire to grind their investigation to a halt. The King’s Marshals claim jurisdiction of the case, corruption in the Constabulary thwarts their efforts, and a special Inquest threatens to end Minox’s career completely. Their only ally is Dayne Heldrin, a provisional member of the Tarian Order, elite warriors trained in the art of protection. But Dayne’s connection to the Gearbox Murders casts suspicion on his motives, as he might be obsessed with a phantom figure he believes is responsible.
While Satrine and Minox struggle to stop the Gearbox from claiming even more victims, the grinding gears of injustice might keep them from ever solving these murders, and threaten to dismantle their partnership forever.
Fantasy [DAW, On Sale: March 26, 2019, Mass Market Paperback / e-Book, ISBN: 9780756412661 / eISBN: 9780756412678]
Magic, murder, adventure, and romance combine in this second novel in the exciting Crown of Shards saga from New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Jennifer Estep.
Everleigh Blair might be the new gladiator queen of Bellona, but her problems are far from over.
First, Evie has to deal with a court full of arrogant, demanding nobles, all of whom want to get their greedy hands on her crown. As if that wasn’t bad enough, an assassin tries to kill Evie in her own throne room.
Despite the dangers, Evie goes ahead with a scheduled trip to the neighboring kingdom of Andvari in order to secure a desperately needed alliance. But complicating matters is the stubborn Andvarian king, who wants to punish Evie for the deaths of his countrymen during the Seven Spire massacre.
But dark forces are at work inside the Andvarian palace, and Evie soon realizes that no one is safe. Worse, Evie’s immunity to magic starts acting in strange, unexpected ways, which makes her wonder whether she is truly strong enough to be a Winter Queen.
But Evie’s magic, life, and crown aren’t the only things in danger—so is her heart, thanks to Lucas Sullivan, the Andvarian king’s bastard son and Evie’s . . . well, Evie isn’t quite sure what Sullivan is to her.
Only one thing is certain—protecting a prince might be even harder than killing a queen…
Fantasy [Harper Voyager, On Sale: July 2, 2019, Paperback / e-Book, ISBN: 9780062797643 / eISBN: 9780062797650]
The Beast Charmer #1
Fantastic Beasts meets Assassin’s Creed in this epic, gripping fantasy romance from debut author Maxym M. Martineau
Exiled beast charmer Leena Edenfrell is in deep trouble. Empty pockets forced her to sell her beloved magical beasts on the black market—an offense punishable by death—and now there’s a price on her head. With the realm’s most talented murderer-for-hire nipping at her heels, Leena makes him an offer he can’t refuse: powerful mythical creatures in exchange for her life.
If only it were that simple. Unbeknownst to Leena, the undying ones are bound by magic to complete their contracts, and Noc cannot risk his brotherhood of assassins…not even to save the woman he can no longer live without.
The Others #5
After the Elders cleansed and reclaimed many human towns, Lakeside Courtyard has emerged relatively unscathed, though Simon Wolfgard, its wolf-shifter leader, and blood prophet Meg Corbyn must work with the human pack to maintain the fragile peace. But all their efforts are threatened when Lieutenant Montgomery’s shady brother arrives, looking for a free ride and easy pickings.
With the humans on guard against one of their own, tensions rise, drawing the attention of the Elders, who are curious about the effect such an insignificant predator can have on a pack. But Meg knows the dangers, for she has seen in the cards how it will all end: with her standing beside a grave. . . .
Fantasy [Roc, On Sale: February 6, 2018, Mass Market Paperback / e-Book (reprint), ISBN: 9780451474506 / eISBN: 9780698190450]
In this powerful and exciting fantasy set in the world of the New York Times bestselling Others series, humans and the shape-shifting Others will see whether they can live side by side…without destroying one another.
There are ghost towns in the world—places where the humans were annihilated in retaliation for the slaughter of the shape-shifting Others.
One of those places is Bennett, a town at the northern end of the Elder Hills—a town surrounded by the wild country. Now efforts are being made to resettle Bennett as a community where humans and Others live and work together. A young female police officer has been hired as the deputy to a Wolfgard sheriff. A deadly type of Other wants to run a human-style saloon. And a couple with four foster children—one of whom is a blood prophet—hope to find acceptance.
But as they reopen the stores and the professional offices and start to make lives for themselves, the town of Bennett attracts the attention of other humans looking for profit. And the arrival of the outlaw Blackstone Clan will either unite Others and humans…or bury them all.