Fantasy books are my not-so-guilty pleasure! Now and then, I find myself in need of an escape from the quotidian so I can explore whole new worlds populated by elves, wizards and witches, mythical creatures and so on.
What I love about fantasy books is that they offer something for every kind of reader and they are very engaging and enchanting, from the wonderfully illustrated covers to the intricate plots and magic systems. Bookstagram, booktube and booktok, in particular, are the main sources of discovering popular and positively acclaimed books, with fantasy books quickly taking over the bookish community of social media.
In this article, I want to present to you a few stunning, underrated fantasy books that I’ve read this year, and love them a lot:
Empire of Sand by Tasha Suri
Although it is on TIME’s “100 Best Fantasy Books of All Time” list, Empire of Sand didn’t get as much popularity as Chakraborty’s The City of Brass, for example. For me, Suri is the best new voice in fantasy. I do hope her books will gain more popularity in the near future.
Slow-paced, but beautifully written, character-driven with fleshed-out and complex characters and with a slow-burn, precious romance based on choice and trust, Empire of Sand is on top of my all-time favourite books.
Its main themes are love, bonds, vows, and family, but it is also a story of colonialism and the cost of freedom. The main character, Mehr, is both fragile and emotionally strong. She is an ordinary girl who finds herself in an extraordinary situation. It’s also incredible to see how strongly the Mehr’s Amrithi traditions resonate with her daily, and how much comfort she takes from her rituals and ancestry. The magic system based on dance and the dreams of the gods is unique and utterly beautiful.
I guarantee that you will love this story in an immersive desert setting, especially if you enjoy slow-burning fantasy books.
The Library of Fates by Aditi Khorana
This book is heavily underrated, and I have no idea why? It’s oozing of fascinating mythology. It starts with a parable that offers a glimpse into the making of the world and the author’s note itself is worth reading. If you love fantasy and mythology, then you better pick up this book (I recommend reading the e-book version since the printed version is quite rare to find).
It is descriptive, magical, and enticing. The sentences are overflowing with adjectives and I could picture the described scenes in my head.
The plot might be simple but is terrific, and it’s completed by the mythological events. And ah, that plot twist! I think it is bittersweet but also fitting for the entire story. Its finality is circular and honestly, I love this.
In the Ravenous Dark by A.M. Strickland
Who doesn’t love a dark fantasy book sometimes? In the Ravenous Dark is standalone. I wish it was longer. It is addicting and phenomenal. For a YA book, it is dark but it gets offset in most cases by Rovan’s wit.
This book is very gripping and action-packed, with a lot of plot twists that I didn’t expect! The two magic systems, blood and death, are very interesting and unique.
In the Ravenous Dark is best for those who love darker themes, a great cast of LGBTQ characters and “unlikeable” heroines who refuse to fall in line, fight to their last breath, but are secretly soft with the people they truly care for.
The Jasmine Throne by Tasha Suri
I want to go back to Tasha Suri for a while because this year she released The Jasmine Throne, an intricate and incredible beginning of a trilogy. Inspired by the history and epics of India, Suri doesn’t disappoint and brings two complex, strong-willed and morally grey young women to life.
I enjoyed the world-building a lot: it is well-described and enriches the story. It’s one of the best world-building I’ve ever encountered in a fantasy book. I also enjoyed the diversity of the narrative voices and how fleshed-out the characters are.
It is an examination of how women are seen as monstrous – whether it’s due to actual magical abilities, or simply the fact that they’re clever. It shows how religion can be twisted to drive reasoning of the wrong kind, and how history can be sharpened into a tool.
The Empress of Salt and Fortune by Nghi Vo
The Empress of Salt and Fortune is so far the shortest fiction book I’ve ever read, yet it is the hardest to rate and to write about. It’s so short, yet it conveys a large palette of emotions through Vo’s accessible, not pretentious, yet elegant and wonderful writing style.
This ancient Vietnam-esque novella is unlike the majority of fantasy books that are usually plot-driven. It is written in a story-within-a-story style.
Rabbit, the storyteller in this book, wovens her story with objects that at first seem irrelevant or might be overlooked. They start each chapter and I find this interesting. It’s like going to a museum and someone presents you with the entire history and meaning behind the artefacts presented there. It’s fascinating.
I also love how unapologetically feminist this book is. The author manages to write so well the story of a great, witty empress with the heart of steel, and portray her history in a patriarchal world.