5 Fantasy Books On My TBR

I don’t review fantasy books often, but I do read and enjoy them (see my reviews of Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell [2004] and The Night Circus [2011]). I love fantasy novels that are well-written, characterised and that take me to magical places. Below I am sharing five fantasy books that are currently on my TBR list and that I am excited to read in the near future.

I. The Gray House [2009] by Mariam Petrosyan

Rowling meets Rushdie via Tartt…Nothing short of life-changing.” The Guardian

The Gray House is an Armenian author’s debut which she published in Russia in 2009 to a critical and popular acclaim. Translated from the Russian by Yuri Machkasov, this book has been described as a magical realist saga about disabled students who live in the House under the direction of the Outsiders. With references to Russian folklore (a house that is alive) and popular Soviet literature, the tale takes a sinister turn when students deaths pile up and the leaders of the House struggle to maintain their control and power.

II. The House in the Cerulean Sea [2020] by T. J. Klune

1984 meets The Umbrella Academy with a pinch of Douglas Adams thrown in”. Gail Carriger (author of Soulless)

The synopsis to this book reads: “Linus Baker is a by-the-book case worker in the Department in Charge of Magical Youth. He’s tasked with determining whether six dangerous magical children are likely to bring about the end of the world. Arthur Parnassus is the master of the orphanage. He would do anything to keep the children safe, even if it means the world will burn. And his secrets will come to light.” This book has been described as a “feel-good” fantasy with an “enchanting love story” inside. It definitely sounds like a wondrous adventure.

III. The Harp of Kings [2019] by Juliet Marillier

This book caught my interest because of Celtic folklore and its great reviews. It tells of one young woman Liobhan, a singer who, with her brother, desires to join “the elite warrior band on Swan Island“. First they have a mission: “to find and retrieve a precious harp, an ancient symbol of kingship, which has gone missing”. “If the harp is not played at the upcoming coronation, the heir will not be accepted and the kingdom will be thrown into turmoil. The book sounds promising especially since the author Juliet Marillier has degrees in languages and music, and is very passionate about Celtic mythology. The second book in this series is called A Dance with Fate [2020], where Liobhan goes to her comrade’s home as a bond servant for a year because of his accident and her alleged blame in it. There, she learns that Oakhill is “a place of dark secrets“.

IV. Opium & Absinthe [2020] by Lydia Kang

The author of this book is a qualified physician and this is a historical novel where vampires must be playing some role. The setting is New York City, 1899 and opium-addicted Tillie Pembroke investigates the death of her sister who died a mysterious death. Pembroke suspects that vampires have something to do with the death since her sister was found with puncture marks on her neck. The novel is said to tackle “drug addiction, vampirism, and deficiencies of medicine in New York at the end of the 19th century“. The same author also penned A Beautiful Poison [2017], a novel where one heroine has to find out which deaths are due to the deadly Spanish influenza and which are the works of a murderer who poisoned people.

V. Children of Blood & Bone [2018] by Tomi Adeyemi

I am not a big YA fiction reader, but I wanted to try some popular YA fantasy. In Adeyemi’s debut Children of Blood & Bone, Zélie Adebola lives in a land where once magic reigned supreme and people were free. Zélie decided to try to bring magic back by rising against the present monarchy. This book appeals to me because it has some Yoruba religion/mythology motifs and some Nigerian folklore which will be interesting to explore. The novel is also said to explore oppression, racism and slavery, issues which have become even more topical in recent weeks.

Have you read any of the books above or excited to read them? Are there any other fantasy books on your TBR you want to read or would like to recommend?

16 thoughts on “5 Fantasy Books On My TBR

  1. I usually don’t read fantasy either, though i have loved all the books I have read by Neil Gaiman. I’m currently reading Le Livre de Perle, by Timothée de Fombelle, famous French author in the genre. I’m reading it along in French with one of my French students. Beautiful writing!

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    1. Le Livre de Perle sounds lovely! I love whimsical tales such as these and it is so nice to read them after some heavy, serious and “important” tomes on some obscure philosophy or whatever 🙂 I definitely want to read Le Livre de Perle if there is an English translation of it. The one thing I still don’t understand is why fantasy writers have this obsession with WWII from time to time and feel the need to include it (perhaps The Book Thief influence?, not sure).

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  2. This looks like a great list! There are a couple here that weren’t on my radar, and a couple that I’d heard of but not looked into yet. I’ll definitely be adding to my TBR; The Gray House in particular sounds really good! The only one of these I’ve read so far is Children of Blood and Bone; I thought the plot was pretty typical of YA fantasy so I wasn’t overly impressed with that, but I did enjoy the cultural details and the themes that you mention finding appealing, so I think you will probably like those aspects as well! And if you don’t read much YA fantasy the familiar tropes in the plot might not be a turn off for you either. I hope you’ll have a good time with all of these books!

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    1. Thank you! I think that is why The Gray House is the first one on my list – I guess it just sounds special somehow 🙂 I will bear in mind the weaknesses in Children of Blood and Bone. YA fantasy is something new to me and I guess on that basis alone it will be a fresh and different read for me, though, like you, I am sure I will not find it very impressive.

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  3. I have The Gray House on my kindle (was it a free download some World Book Day?), and I’ve wanted to read it, too. Also, I have been seeing Opium and Absinthe every time I log on to Amazon…looks interesting, if vampires are done well within its pages.

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