I Read 12 Fantasy Series Last Year, but I’ll Recommend Just 5 of Them to You

Published on 1/3/2024

Before last year, I would’ve told you that I wasn’t much of a fantasy reader. I truly thought it wasn’t the genre for me, despite barely having tried it - how wrong I was!

A friend convinced me to try A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J Maas, and it all spiralled from there. It seems like this is quite a common entrance into romantasy books, and I’m glad so many of us are finding our way to fantasy reading through Feyre and Rhysand.

So, if you’re in the same boat and looking for a post-ACOTAR read, a complete newbie to fantasy books, or just looking to dip your toe in the genre, I’ve got five recommendations for you. I ended up reading twelve fantasy series last year (when I love something, I love it HARD), and these are the ones I’m begging you to try.

1. Throne of Glass by Sarah J Maas

While I love how many people enter the world of fantasy reading through ACOTAR, as I did, it frustrates me endlessly that Sarah’s other series, Throne of Glass, doesn’t get the attention it so sorely deserves!

I’ll be honest, Throne of Glass takes a little while to get smutty, if that’s what you’re looking for. But by book five, it more than makes up for that with some steamy scenes.

It has everything else, I swear. It’s fast-paced, with a well-woven world and magic system, varied characters, queer representation, empowered females, important friendships and romantic relationships, and so much more!

There are seven books and a novella, so it’ll keep you busy for a while. But be prepared to bawl your eyes out.

“In a land without magic, where the king rules with an iron hand, an assassin is summoned to the castle. She comes not to kill the king, but to win her freedom.” - Goodreads

2. The Prison Healer by Lynette Noni

I am obsessed with this series, and I can’t understand why it doesn’t come up more on BookTok. The Prison Healer has such a unique magic system, and I love how much the characters hide from the reader. The plot unravels as you go, and I literally gasped as certain things were revealed.

It is a thrilling series, and I wish there were more books to devour.

I also appreciate how it focuses on the power of healing, and how this can be turned into a weapon as well.

“With an incurable plague sweeping Zalindov, a mysterious new inmate fighting for Kiva’s heart, and a prison rebellion brewing, Kiva can’t escape the terrible feeling that her trials have only just begun.” - Goodreads

3. The Poppy War by R. F. Kuang

There are no good guys in The Poppy War series, only heroes who live long enough to become villains. It was agonizing to read in the way that only the best books can be. Usually, you can trust an author won’t kill off a beloved character, but R.F. Kuang has no such qualms. No one is safe in these books.

This series really stands out for how it weaves history with fantasy, playing upon China’s violent past in terms of Japanese and Western occupation. It questions faith and doesn’t limit it to just one religion or divinity.

It is not for romantasy readers! But it is definitely a thrilling series, and I didn’t miss a romantic plotline.

“Rin’s shamanic powers may be the only way to save her people. But as she finds out more about the god that has chosen her, the vengeful Phoenix, she fears that winning the war may cost her humanity . . . and that it may already be too late.” - Goodreads

4. The Empyrean by Rebecca Yarros

In my humble opinion, this series is not overhyped. It is truly worth the attention it receives. Especially because Fourth Wing only rose to attention after its release, rather than being a product of merely marketing. All the attention it got came from reviews praising it.

Something that really stands out to me in this novel is the representation. This is seen most clearly in Violet, who has an illness resembling Ehlers-Danlos syndrome. She manages to overcome it to achieve incredible things, but also is helped and assisted, which speaks to the importance of equity over equality.

But that’s not the extent of the diversity. Queerness is woven into the story without needing to be explicitly stated or the characters' entire identity; many are described as being attracted to both genders. There is a non-binary character consistently referred to with the pronouns ‘they’ and ‘them’, without it being further addressed. Finally, there is a deaf character and sign language is portrayed to be a normal thing to know. One character is even embarrassed not to know it and asks to learn it.

I love how the dragons in this series aren’t just horses to be ridden, but sentient beings with perhaps more complex consciences than humans. Also, all the unique powers of riders add a fascinating layer, and how these reflect their own personalities.

Don’t hate this book without reading it due to the attention it got; please give it a chance and then decide for yourself.

“Friends, enemies, lovers. Everyone at Basgiath War College has an agenda—because once you enter, there are only two ways out: graduate or die” - Goodreads

5. The Grishaverse by Leigh Bardugo

The magic system in Leigh’s Grishaverse is so different from other series and has a very rigid set of rules. These books play a lot with the concept of morality, who is good and evil, and mainly who gets to decide those things. Corruption plays a big role in the storyline throughout.

Something I found fascinating about these books is that I enjoyed the spin-off, Six of Crows, even more than the original Shadow and Bone series. I think it’s because SaB took care of so much worldbuilding, that SoC could focus on characters and plot much more. Also, SoC still brought new locations to us, including Ketterdam, which is based on Amsterdam and the Netherlands in general (very exciting to this Dutchie).

Plus, you can watch the Netflix adaptation; although prepare yourself for heartbreak as it was cancelled after two seasons, sadly!

“Yet nothing in this lavish world is what it seems. With darkness looming and an entire kingdom depending on her untamed power, Alina will have to confront the secrets of the Grisha . . . and the secrets of her heart.” - Goodreads

If you’re looking for more fantasy books to enjoy, check out my beginner-to-expert timeline of fantasy novels! I cover all the big series and help you to ease yourself into this exciting genre, or dive right into the most complex magic systems.

If you have any fantasy series you think deserves a spot on this list, let me know in the comments!

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Welcome to Symptoms of Living! A place where I like to relieve myself of the barrage of thoughts and ideas filling my mind. Here I'll take a look at various topics, from books to BPD, series to self-harm, there's nothing that we can't, and shouldn't, talk about.

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