Recommendations: Adult Fantasy

I have seen a discussion floating around Twitter about that period between being a teenager and being an adult and the difficulty some people face in finding books that speak to them. I have talked about memoirs in this context before as I find that they are a brilliant way of finding books that talk about exactly these experiences. Rachel has also written a brilliant post recommending adult books for young adults, which you should absolutely check out. But today I want to recommend some Adult Fantasy – because there are so many great books in that section that people maybe ignore. I personally have been struggling with YA fantasy because the focus on love stories is just not something I am super interested in, and have been mostly reading adult fantasy.

I also have thoughts about whose books get classified as YA. Hint: Not those written by men. Coming-of-age stories are a staple in adult fantasy, be it Lord of the Rings or The Name of the Wind. But nobody calls these books YA. But when a young woman writes fantasy suddenly people insist on calling it YA. Case in point: R. F. Kuang’s The Poppy War, which is decidedly NOT YA and super gruesome in parts. The author received some weird backlash when she insisted that her book really, really, really is not YA and should be treated as such. So I would politely ask everybody to think about their assumptions when it comes to placing books in the YA section in their heads.

Urban Fantasy:

The Rivers of London Series by Ben Aaronovitch

9317452I love this series with all my heart. The main character is in his mid-twenties and working as a police man when he stumbles upon the supernatural underbelly of contemporary London. The books are hilarious and self-aware, the cast of characters is diverse and wonderfully drawn, and reading these books just makes me happy. The seventh book is due to come out this month and I cannot wait to hold it in my hands.

The Kate Daniels Series by Ilona Andrews

7940930I went through a ridiculous binge of these books earlier this year and only have the last book in the series left to read. Kate is a wonderful protagonist who I am always rooting for. She is in her early twenties when the series begins and working as a private investigator, trying to just live her life and not get emotionally involved with anybody. I have rarely been as invested in a relationship as I am in hers and Curran (even if he is a bit of an ass sometimes) and love the strong emphasis on friendship these books have at their core. I have also recently read another series by Ilona Andrews which I also whole-heartedly recommend.

High Fantasy:

The Broken Earth trilogy by N. K. Jemisin

19161852I adore this. I don’t even have all that many words to describe how utterly perfect I think this series is. N. K. Jemisin might be my all-time favourite author and I am dragging my feet to read the last of her series that I haven’t read yet because then I would have to wait for new books to appear. The first book is told from three perspectives following three women of different ages and their struggles. It grapples with growing up and family and racism and the end of the world. The themes of family at the core of this series really broke my heart.

The Divine Cities trilogy by Robert Jackson Bennett

25452717The protagonists of this series are on the older end – and I absolutely loved this. They still are looking for their place in the world and they try to be good people (and sometimes fail at this).The characters rebel against their families’ expectations in a way that I found highly relatable. Bennett’s language is assured, his characterization on point, and his world-building intricate.


All the Birds in the Sky by Charlie Jane Anders

27313170Sitting just at the edge between fantasy and science fiction, this is basically a coming-of-age story, focussing on the friendship between a witch and a scientist. There are strong themes of family and friendship, on doing the right thing as opposed to the easy thing, and of identity and self. The characters in this book are different and wonderful. Anders’ imagination is dazzling and I cannot wait for her new book coming out in January 2019.

Reincarnation Blues by Michael Poore

33571217Milo is an old soul, literally – he has lived 9995 lives so far and has yet to achieve perfection. In fact he isn’t even sure he wants to achieve perfection as he is in love with Death (or rather a Death – Suzie). This has to change when he is informed that every soul has in fact only 10000 lives to get it right or it will be erased. This a book, at its core, about finding your place in the world and about being the best person you can be. And I can think of few things more relevant to me.

What are your favourite adult fantasy novels that might be interesting to people trying to find their way into the genre?

20 thoughts on “Recommendations: Adult Fantasy

  1. Great recommendations! I loved The Fifth Season, and I really need to check out The Obelisk Gate/The Stone Sky as well as her other series soon. Jemisin’s characterization is so nuanced.

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  2. You are spot on with your thoughts on why things get assumed to be YA. To me it’s a weird marketing category and sometimes things get put in there to capture those sales (since YA is a huge market) but then it’s weird to me that other things get left out. What makes something adult vs YA is kind of nebulous sometimes, but then other times you read something and think ‘typical YA’. I find a lot that I like in both categories and sometimes I’m in the mood for something more YA-ish but then pick up something and it’s a huge epic without a lot of the stuff I’ve come to associate with YA… Yes, nebulous.

    Anyway, rambling. Great list!

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    1. I get the marketing angle to the whole conversation, especially since I found out that in the US YA books are cheaper than adult books (that is not the case in Germany). I just sometimes wonder why the debate gets so vicious when female authors explain that their books are not YA – which is not a value judgement but is sometimes interpreted as such.

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      1. Not sure. I see a lot of people disparaging YA as ‘less than’ so if someone writes adult fantasy and then is categorized as ‘YA’ because, generally, they are a woman author and there may be crossover appeal, I think I could see why they *may* be angry? On the other hand, are they then also thinking that YA is ‘less than’? Or that putting them in YA because they are women is a form of ‘othering’? I’m not sure. I know several authors who write both YA and Adult fantasy and I wonder what their thoughts are on this. Either way, even saying what makes something ‘YA’ versus not ‘YA’ is a bit nebulous in and of itself, so it can be hard to have a conversation about something that isn’t always so easily defined, either. 🙂

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      2. I definitely see your point. Maybe I just have seen too many discussions from the other end lately – where people talk about how they cannot ever get on with adult fiction and YA is the best thing ever. The Poppy War is an extreme example as well because there is such disturbing content in that book that I wouldn’t want people going into it with the “wrong” impression. Overall, I absolutely agree, there is a huge grey zone between YA and adult fiction.

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      3. Oh, I totally agree with The Poppy War. On the one hand there are a ton of YA tropes… but most of them are inverted. And I definitely wouldn’t consider it YA. The themes are bigger than that I think, based on the direction the author is headed with it, not just the content. I was actually surprised when someone told me Red Rising was YA because some of the content in that…it’s kind of weird what is and is not considered YA sometimes I guess lol.
        I read a mix of YA and Adult. Usually I read YA when in the mood for easier reading? If that makes much sense. It’s weird to me that people wouldn’t want to read adult fiction though! Missing out on so much great stuff.

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  3. I loved this post – so many great books to start looking out! I have to be honest and say that I tend to be swayed by book covers, rather than the way they’ve been categorised. Reincarnation Blues is a beauty!

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  4. I think N.K. Jemisin is definitely an excellent recommendation!!

    Other adult fantasy books I love are Uprooted/Spinning Silver by Naomi Novik, The Immortals trilogy by Jordanna Max Brodsky – which is an urban fantasy following a modern day version of Artemis – and The Natural History of Dragons series by Marie Brennan, which basically follows a female dragon scientist on a series of her expeditions.

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    1. Oh yes, I love Uprooted and Spinning Silver. I thought about including them but then decided I had talked about them enough recently. I haven’t heard of The Immortals but that sounds RIGHT up my alley! Thank you!


  5. The link to my post isn’t working so I nearly missed this but YAY! I love this post. I really need to read The Stone Sky soon before I forget everything from the first two books. Other than that I’m really looking forward to trying the Divine Cities trilogy at some point, I know Chelsea also loves those books. And the Rivers of London series sounds really promising.

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    1. I do not get on with the new wordpress layout apparently. Hopefully it’s fixed now.
      The Divine Cities was just awesome. I did not expect to love it as much as I did – but then again, I should not have been surprised because I LOVE books about what happens to gods when people stop believing in them.
      I personally really adore The Rivers of London – there is just something lovely about them. Today I got the mail that the next book should arrive at my doorstep on monday. I am so excited!

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      1. I didn’t know that books about what happens to gods when people stop believing in them was even a subgenre, but that sounds fascinating. I’m intrigued.

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      2. I’m not sure it’s a subgenre, its just something I really gravitate towards (it took me ages to realize it): I adore The Divine Cities, and The Library at Mount Char, and N K Jemisin’s Inheritance trilogy, and I am sure many more. (I am now thinking I should write recommendations posts focussing plot points or tropes that I adore)

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  6. I often recommend Kurt Vonnegut to young adults who are looking for something to bridge the gap; his books are short, generally, and his style is straightforward and sarcastic, and he incorporates fantastical elements into plots that are still very rooted in human/earthbound concerns.

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