The best fantasy books of 2021

Looking for the best fantasy books? Check out our picks of the most exciting fantasy fiction in 2021, the best fantasy novels of 2020, and the top fantasy books of all time.

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The best fantasy books offer readers the perfect escape into another world. Here we take a look at the most exciting new fantasy novels of 2021 and the best fantasy fiction of 2020. We also share some of the top fantasy books of all time. From John Gwynne’s Banished Lands, where angels and demons wage war, to the magical multi-dimensional universe of Genevieve Cogman’s The Invisible Library, if you’re a fantasy fiction fan we’ve got you covered.

Looking for the very best sci-fi books? Discover our edit, here.

The best fantasy books of 2021

The Untold Story

by Genevieve Cogman

Book cover for The Untold Story

The eighth book in Genevieve Cogman's Invisible Library fantasy series is her most compelling yet. Spy-librarian Irene is hurtling headlong into danger. Her perilous mission is to eliminate an enemy, and secrecy is key. But even as she tries, many worlds are vanishing – and the Library may be to blame. Irene must descend into its dangerous depth in order to uncover the truth . . .

A Marvellous Light

by Freya Marske

Book cover for A Marvellous Light

For fans of Bridgerton who'd like to welcome magic into their lives. . .

Set in an alternative Edwardian England, this is a comedy of manners, manor houses, and hedge mazes: including a magic-infused murder mystery and a delightful queer romance from debut author Freya Marske. 

Young baronet Robin Blyth thought he was taking up a minor governmental post. However, he's actually been appointed parliamentary liaison to a secret magical society. If it weren’t for this administrative error, he’d never have discovered the incredible magic underlying his world. 

But he’ll need the help of Edwin Courcey, his adversarial magical-society counterpart. Thrown together, Robin and Edwin will discover a plot that threatens every magician in the British Isles.

Fury of a Demon

by Brian Naslund

Book cover for Fury of a Demon

In the third and final instalment in Brian Naslund's Dragons of Terra trilogy, Osyrus Ward has subdued most of Terra, but to finish the job and annihilate the dragons he must add to his huge army of skyships and create a machine that possesses unheard-of power. Rebels Bershad and Ashlyn are doing every everything they can to prevent this, but they have been captured in Dainwood by Ward's mercenaries. Ashlyn employs her dark magic against the terrifying forces massing around them, and Bershad summons his history of victory in battle. But will their combined energies be enough to save the world?

The Library of the Dead

by T. L. Huchu

Book cover for The Library of the Dead

When Ropa dropped out of school to become a ghostalker, earning a living by carrying messages from the dead to the living, it seemed harmless enough. But then the dead begin whispering about someone who is bewitching children and leaving them joyless husks. When Ropa starts investigating she needs to draw on Zimbabwean magic and Scottish pragmatism to hunt down clues. And what she finds will change her world forever . . . This magical fantasy book is the first in the Edinburgh Nights series. 

The Empire's Ruin

by Brian Staveley

Book cover for The Empire's Ruin

In the first book in Brian Staveley's epic fantasy trilogy, Ashes of the Unhewn, the great Annurian Empire is on its last legs, and its elite soldiers – the Kettral – are dwindling. Kettral soldier Gwenna Sharpe is given a quest, in order to restore the hawk-riding battalion. She must travel beyond the known world, to the place where the mighty war hawks nest. She will face obstacles along the way, from poisoned land to a monk turned conman to sinister forces massing against the empire. Gwenna's quest to save it is fraught with danger, but full of potential for recovery and renewal.

The House of Always

by Jenn Lyons

Book cover for The House of Always

The House of Always is the fourth book in Jenn Lyons’ epic fantasy series A Chorus of Dragons, which the New York Times described as 'a larger-than-life adventure story about thieves, wizards, assassins and kings'.

As the novel opens, the Eight Immortals have catastrophically failed to stop Kihrin’s enemies, who are moving forward with their plans to free Vol Karoth, the King of Demons. Kihrin has his own ideas about how to fight back, but even if he’s willing to sacrifice everything for victory, the cost may prove too high for his allies.

Now they face a choice: can they save the world while saving Kihrin too? Or will they be forced to watch as he becomes the very evil they had all sworn to destroy?

Here, Jenn Lyons tells us about her self-proclaimed nerdish (and proud) love of world-building in her fantasy novels.

Black Water Sister

by Zen Cho

Book cover for Black Water Sister

Heralded as what might be 'Zen Cho's best work yet', Black Water Sister should shoot to the top of your TBR pile if you're looking to get into fantasy fiction but not quite sure where to start. Mischievous and bittersweet, this Malaysian-set novel is a tale of family, ghosts and local gods.

Broke, jobless and just graduated, Jessamyn is abandoning America to return ‘home’. But as she packs to return to Malaysia, a country she hasn't seen since she was a toddler, she starts to hear a bossy voice in her mind. . . 

Jess soon learns that the voice belongs to her late grandmother Ah Ma who in life, and apparently in death, worships a local deity, the Black Water Sister.

When a business magnate dared to offend her goddess, Ah Ma swore revenge, and she isn't afraid to blackmail her granddaughter into helping her to make mischief. As Jess fights to retain control, she is drawn even deeper into a world of peril and family secrets.


by Susan Dennard

Book cover for Witchshadow

Susan Dennard’s New York Times bestselling fantasy series continues – with the story of Iseult, the Threadwitch.

The Witchlands have been on the brink of war, and in the fourth book in this epic fantasy series, it arrives. Iseult has found her heartsister Safi at last, but their reunion is brief. For Iseult to stay alive, she must flee Cartorra while Safi remains. And though Iseult has plans to save her friend, they will require her to summon magic more dangerous than anything she has ever faced before.

Meanwhile, the Bloodwitch Aeduan is beset by forces he cannot understand. And Vivia – rightful queen of Nubrevna – finds herself without a crown or home.

As villains from legend reawaken across the Witchlands, only the mythical Cahr Awen can stop the gathering war. Iseult could embrace this power and heal the land, but first she must choose on which side of the shadows her destiny will lie.

Discover all of The Witchlands series books in order here.

The Ever After

by Amanda Hocking

Book cover for The Ever After

Ulla Tulin is on a quest to uncover her past in the third fantasy book in Amanda Hocking’s Omte Origins trilogy. In this epic final adventure, Ulla fights to recover her lost memories in time to battle the consequences of opening the bridge to Alfheim, the lost First City.  Could her forgotten heritage be the key to victory? 

We Free the Stars

by Hafsah Faizal

Book cover for We Free the Stars

The epic sequel to Hafsah Faizal's New York Times bestselling YA fantasy novel sees Zafira and Nasir determined to finish their mission to restore magic to the kingdom. But time is running out, and if order is to be restored, sacrifices will have to be made . . . 


by Lucy Holland

Book cover for Sistersong

This folklore-inspired tale of betrayal, magic and murder is set to be one of the best fantasy books of 2021. King Cador’s children inherit a land abandoned by the Romans, torn by warring tribes. Riva can cure others, but can’t heal her own scars. Keyne battles to be seen as the king’s son, although born a daughter. And Sinne dreams of love, longing for adventure. All three fear a life confined within the hold, protected from Saxon invaders. But when Myrdhin, meddler and magician, arrives, the siblings discover the power within themselves and the land.  

The best fantasy books of 2020

The Dark Archive

by Genevieve Cogman

Book cover for The Dark Archive

The Dark Archive is the seventh fantasy book in Genevieve Cogman's Invisible Library series. It's hard to have a relaxing weekend when you're a Librarian spy, and despite her best hopes, Irene's trip to Guernsey is nothing of the sort. Instead of retrieving a rare book, she's almost assassinated . . . When the attacks continue in London, it's clear someone is trying to destroy the Fae-dragon peace treaty. Irene and her friends know they must save the treaty, but when an old enemy demands vengeance and a shocking secret is revealed, can Irene really succeed?

Discover more about The Invisible Library series. 

The Memory of Souls

by Jenn Lyons

Book cover for The Memory of Souls

The enthralling third novel in Jenn Lyons’s A Chorus of Dragons fantasy book series opens with the city of Atrine in ruins. Having discovered Relos Var’s evil plan, Kirin and his friends must convince a king to perform an ancient ritual which will save humanity – but at what price? And all the time, Kihrin’s connection to the monstrous god Vol Karoth is growing. Can Kihrin save his world, or will he destroy it? Fantasy fans won't want to miss one of the best fantasy books of 2020. 

Children of Virtue and Vengeance

by Tomi Adeyemi

Book cover for Children of Virtue and Vengeance

Children of Blood and Bone was one of the most talked-about fantasy books of 2018, and at last Tomi Adeyemi is back with this thrilling sequel. After battling the impossible, Zélie and Amari have finally succeeded in bringing magic back to the land of Orïsha. But the ritual was more powerful than they imagined, reigniting the powers of not only the maji but also some nobles with magic ancestry. With civil war looming on the horizon, Zélie finds herself at a breaking point: she must find a way to bring the kingdom together or watch as Orïsha tears itself apart. Children of Virtue and Vengeance is one of the best fantasy books of 2020 for young adult readers.

The Unspoken Name

by A. K. Larkwood

Book cover for The Unspoken Name

If you're looking for a new fantasy series to get excited about, A. K. Larkwood's The Unspoken Name duology is it. In the first book in the series, The Unspoken Name, expect an epic coming-of-age tale that follows Csorwe, who, on her fourteenth birthday will be sacrificed by the death cult who raised her. Offered a chance to escape her fate by a sorcerer who wants her as his assistant, sword-hand and assassin, Csorwe spends years living on a knife-edge until she is forced to confront her past . . .

Inspired by the author's longstanding fascination with villainous sidekicks and the question 'what might it take to stay loyal to a boss who is bad news?', this exciting debut is one of the best fantasy books of 2020.

The Lost City

by Amanda Hocking

Book cover for The Lost City

According to the New York Times, Amanda Hocking's Trylle Trilogy 'which feature trolls, hobgoblins and fairy-tale elements and keep the pages turning, have generated an excitement not felt in the industry since Stephenie Meyer or perhaps even J. K. Rowling.'

In the wake of this bestselling fantasy series, The Lost City is the first book in Amanda Hocking's Omte Origins trilogy, a new adventure set in her magical Trylle universe and one of the best fantasy books to be released in 2020. 

When Ulla Tulin was abandoned as a baby, like many half-blood trolls she was raised by strangers who hid her away. But she never stopped wondering about her birth parents, and so when she hears about a project to help half-blood trolls she's determined to discover her true heritage. She enlists the help of the resourceful Pan and must contend with the mysterious Eliana. But as she and Pan fight to unravel the truth they realise that someone – or something – is determined to stop them . . . 

The Morning Flower

by Amanda Hocking

Book cover for The Morning Flower

The Morning Flower is the highly anticipated second novel in Amanda Hocking's fantasy series, the Omte Origins trilogy.

As they continue on their quest to find the key to Ulla's heritage, Ulla, Pan and Eliana make an incredible discovery in the city of Merellä and embark on a journey that takes them across the world to an ancient city that may hold the answers they seek. But powerful enemies are close behind – and they're catching up fast.

As Eliana faces an impossible choice with far-reaching consequences, Ulla and Pan race to unlock the past and discover an earth-shattering secret that will challenge everything they thought they knew about the troll world. As their enemies draw closer, friendships are pushed to their very limits . . .  but will they break?


by Susan Dennard

Book cover for Bloodwitch

After the epic world-building and fast-paced adventures in Susan Dennard's previous fantasy books, Truthwitch and Windwitch, existing fans won't need much persuading to be very excited about Bloodwitch, the third novel in the Witchlands series.

Find out more about these epic fantasy novels in our introduction to the world of the Witchlands here.

A Time of Courage

by John Gwynne

Book cover for A Time of Courage

No list of the best fantasy books would be complete without a John Gwynne novel. One of the most anticipated publications of 2020, in A Time of Courage, The King of the Otherworld is finally free and angels, demons and heroes face their ultimate fight for the Banished Lands. A Time of Courage, the epic conclusion to the Of Blood and Bone series publishes in April 2020. 

Discover all the books set in John Gwynne's Banished Lands universe. 

Blood of an Exile

by Brian Naslund

Book cover for Blood of an Exile

In Brian Naslund's must-read debut fantasy novel we meet Bershad, an adventurer sentenced to kill dragons for a living after being caught trying to assassinate a fellow noble. When the king who sentenced Bershad offers him a way out of his forced occupation and exile, Bershad sees a way to earn redemption, but it won't be easy. Blood of an Exile, the first book in the Dragons of Terra series is packed with adventure and of course, lots of dragons.

Sorcery of a Queen

by Brian Naslund

Book cover for Sorcery of a Queen

The second book in this unmissable fantasy series is set after the events of Blood of an Exile, as dragon-slayer Bershad and his crew can only hope they have enough strength to face what's in store next. A foreign emperor is raining an army, and he'll stop at nothing to crush the kingdom and take control of its highly-prized dragons.

The Tyrant

by Seth Dickinson

Book cover for The Tyrant

The third book in Seth Dickinson's critically acclaimed fantasy quartet, Masquerade, The Tyrant is the perfect fantasy novel to pick up if you're looking for a page-turner.

After years of service to the corrupt Imperial Republic of Falcrest, Baru Cormorant finally knows how to shatter it. She’s discovered a deadly, weaponized blood plague, that, if she chooses to release, would kill millions. . . not just in Falcrest, but worldwide.

But, as her divided mind turns on itself, Baru's enemies close in and she must choose between genocidal retribution, and a harder path.

Best fantasy books of all time

Empire in Black and Gold

by Adrian Tchaikovsky

Book cover for Empire in Black and Gold

This epic fantasy novel is the first book in Adrian Tchaikovsky’s critically acclaimed fantasy series The Shadows of the Apt. The Lowlands have lived in peace and prosperity for decades, but now an ancient Empire is conquering city after city, and the Lowlands are next . . . Stenwold Maker, spymaster, artificer and statesman, sees the threat, but can he convince his people of the danger that is coming? 

The Fifth Season

by N. K. Jemisin

Book cover for The Fifth Season

Published in 2015, The Fifth Season is the first fantasy novel in N. K. Jemisin's Broken Earth trilogy. With this remarkable work of fantasy fiction, Jemisin became the first black author to win the Hugo Award for Best Novel in 2016, and what's more, the next two instalments in the series The Obelisk Gate and The Stone Sky also went on to win the same prize, making Jemisin the first-ever author to win the award for all books in a trilogy.

With fascinating geologic forces and systemic issues of oppression, marginalization and the misuse of power at its heart - The Fifth Season and the entire Broken Earth trilogy is lauded for the complex and richly-coloured world in which it is set. Considered a work of science fantasy, the trilogy is set in a far-future Earth, upon a continent known as the Stillness, which is plagued by apocalyptic natural disasters known as Seasons, that can last for generations. Book one follows the story of Essun, a woman living an unremarkable life in a quiet town until three tragedies strike in one day. Her husband murders their beloved son in cold blood and kidnaps their daughter, a world-spanning empire falls, and a great rift has been torn into the Stillness throwing into the sky enough ash to block the sun's light for years to come. Essun's fight to save her daughters in this dying land, begins . . .


by Susan Dennard

Book cover for Truthwitch

Susan Dennard’s fantasy novel is the first in the bewitching Witchlands fantasy series. Young witches Safiya and Iseult have a habit of finding trouble. After clashing with a powerful Guildmaster and his ruthless Bloodwitch bodyguard, the friends are forced to flee their home. Safi must avoid capture at all costs as she’s a rare Truthwitch, able to discern truth from lies. Many would kill for her magic, so Safi must keep it hidden – lest she be used in the struggle between empires. And Iseult’s true powers are hidden even from herself.

Discover everything you need to know about the Witchlands with our guide.  


by Naomi Novik

Book cover for Uprooted

In this enthralling fantasy book, a dark enchantment blights the village that Agnieszka calls her home.  Many villagers have been lost to the nearby enchanted forest. The villagers depend on a dark wizard to protect them, but his protection comes at a terrible cost. Every ten years, a village girl must give up everything to serve him, and Agnieszka fears that her best friend Kasia will be the next girl chosen. But when the wizard comes, it's not Kasia he chooses. 

Sorcerer to the Crown

by Zen Cho

Book cover for Sorcerer to the Crown

Described by M. R. Carey as a ‘joyous mash-up of Jane Austen and high fantasy’, Sorcerer to the Crown is the first book in Hugo Award-winning author Zen Cho’s fantasy series. In Regency London, Zacharias Wythe is England's first African Sorcerer Royal. He leads the Royal Society of Unnatural Philosophers, whose duty it is to keep the levels of magic stable   – but they're failing. The supply of magic is being disrupted by the Fairy Court, and war with France means the government wants to drain this scarce resource even further. When Zacharias meets ambitious orphan Prunella Gentleman they find that her recent magical discovery might just change the nature of sorcery forever.  

The Invisible Library

by Genevieve Cogman

Book cover for The Invisible Library

The Invisible Library is the astounding debut fantasy book by Genevieve Cogman, and the first novel in The Invisible Library series. Professional spy Irene works for the mysterious Library, along with her enigmatic assistant Kai. Their mission is to steal a dangerous book from an alternative London. But when they arrive, it's already been stolen . . . To make things more complicated, this alternative world is infested with chaos, full of supernatural creatures and unpredictable magic.

Discover the world of The Invisible Library series.


by John Gwynne

Book cover for Malice

Bestselling author Conn Iggulden called Malice, the first book in John Gwynne’s The Faithful and the Fallen series, a ‘hell of a debut,’ and with epic battles, giants and dark prophecies, it’s easy to see why. Set in the Banished Lands where armies of men and giants clash in battle, this is an epic fantasy series not to be missed. 

Discover all the books set in John Gwynne's Banished Lands universe. 

The Ruin of Kings

by Jenn Lyons

Book cover for The Ruin of Kings

The hugely anticipated debut by Jenn Lyons is the first fantasy book in the A Chorus of Dragons series. Brim-full of big ideas – body-swapping, prophecy, rich worldbuilding and grim commentaries on many aspects of empire – to name but a few, this is the tale of Kihrin, a young prince cursed with bad luck and worse prophecy. The Ruin of Kings is a fantastically complex and multi-layered fantasy book, and characters like Doc and Galen, alongside Kihrin's own well-balanced set of talents and flaws make this a promising new fantasy series. 

The Tiger and the Wolf

by Adrian Tchaikovsky

Book cover for The Tiger and the Wolf

The Tiger and the Wolf is the British Fantasy Award-winning novel from Adrian Tchaikovsky and the first book in his Echoes of the Fall fantasy fiction series. Maniye is an outcast, the daughter of the chieftain of the Wolf clan and the queen of the Tiger clan, clans which have been deadly enemies for generations. Hiding a deadly secret, the power to shapeshift into the form of both a wolf and a tiger, she escapes. But Maniye is crucial to her father’s plan to rule the north, and he is determined to get her back. As she flees, priests foresee danger and rumours of war spread . . . 

King Rat

by China Miéville

Book cover for King Rat

Blending eerie Pied Piper-influenced fairy tale with the ‘90s South London Drum and Bass scene, China Miéville’s debut is a thrilling urban fantasy novel. When Saul’s father is murdered, in a London where mysterious forces prepare for a showdown, Saul is left to pay for the crime. But help comes in the unlikely form of King Rat, who leads him to freedom where he confronts his inheritance at the gathering of the Junglist Massive.


by Christopher Paolini

Book cover for Eragon

Eragon is the bestselling first instalment in Christopher Paolini's beloved fantasy series, The Inheritance Cycle. 

At the story’s opening, fifteen-year-old Eragon is a poor farmhand living in Alagaësia, a land ruled over by the fallen dragon rider, and now evil, Galbatorix. When Eragon finds a mysterious stone in the mountains, he hopes it may hold some value, but his life is changed forever when the strange polished stone, hatches . . . 

Dragons were thought to be extinct . . . so when Saphira emerges from her egg, Eragon raises her in secret until two dark Ra’zac come looking for the stone.

Eragon’s once simple life is thrust into peril. In a world of magic and unimaginable dangers, the fate of the entire Empire soon rests upon his shoulders, and to survive he must take up the legendary mantle of the once-peaceful Dragon Riders . . . but can he?

The story of an unbreakable bond between boy and dragon and their fight to fulfil their destinies, Eragon has all the vital components of a page-turning fantasy book.

For those who love the work of master storyteller Paolini, this year sees the release of his unmissable science fiction debut To Sleep in a Sea of Stars.

Children of Blood and Bone

by Tomi Adeyemi

Book cover for Children of Blood and Bone

Tomi Adeyemi’s YA fantasy book is the first in her West African-inspired fantasy fiction series Legacy of Orisha. Zélie remembers when Orisha was full of magic. When different clans ruled with unique powers, including her Reaper mother who could summon forth souls. But everything changed when the ruthless king had anyone with powers killed. Now only a few people still have the power to use magic, and they must stay hidden. Zélie is one of those people, but now she has the chance to bring magic back to her people and strike against the monarchy . . . Tomi Adeyemi is the author of some on the best fantasy books for YA readers in recent years.

Find out more about the clans of Orïsha with our guide. 

The Lord of the Rings

by J. R. R. Tolkien

Book cover for The Lord of the Rings

J.R.R. Tolkien’s trilogy is a classic of fantasy fiction and is a must-read for all fantasy fans. The story of the hobbit Frodo and his epic quest to reach Mount Doom and defeat the Dark Lord, Sauron, by destroying the One Ring, Tolkien’s epic fantasy was adapted into three of the most popular films of the 2000s. One of the best fantasy books ever written. 

Black Leopard, Red Wolf

by Marlon James

Book cover for Black Leopard, Red Wolf

Black Leopard, Red Wolf is the first fantasy novel in Marlon James's Dark Star Trilogy. A New York Times bestseller, National Book Award finalist and Ray Bradbury Prize winner, it's no stranger to accolades.

Set in an African-inspired fantasy world, the first book in the series follows Tracker, a mercenary with an extraordinary ability to follow scents, as he hunts down a missing boy. On his journey Tracker's crosses paths with strange companions, from shapeshifters to giants, who seek the same child and hide their own secrets . . .

A Game of Thrones

by George R.R. Martin

Book cover for A Game of Thrones

No list of the best fantasy fiction is complete without George R. R. Martin’s epic fantasy fiction series, universally acknowledged to be some of the best fantasy books of all time. The first book in the series gave its name to the TV series that became one of the most talked-about in history. In a world where summers span decades and winter can last a lifetime, the battle for the Iron Throne has begun. The breakout success of A Game of Thrones means the series will feature on best fantasy books lists for years to come. 

If you're a fan of A Game of Thrones, don't miss our edit of the fantasy book series to read next.

The Colour of Magic

by Terry Pratchett

Book cover for The Colour of Magic

Terry Pratchett’s wonderfully inventive fantasy fiction series Discworld begins with The Colour of Magic. Set in a flat world resting on the back of four elephants who are balanced on the shell of a giant turtle, this is a parallel time and place full of magic. When the first-ever tourist arrives, their survival is charged to a comically inept wizard who must face robbers, mercenaries and Death himself. Terry Pratchett is the author of some of the most-loved fantasy books of all-time.  

The Lie Tree

by Frances Hardinge

Book cover for The Lie Tree

When Faith’s father is found dead under mysterious circumstances, she is determined to untangle the truth from the lies.

As she is searching through his belongings for clues she discovers a strange tree. The tree only grows healthy and bears fruit if you whisper a lie to it. The fruit of the tree, when eaten, will deliver a hidden truth to the person who consumes it. The bigger the lie, the more people who believe it, the bigger the truth that is uncovered.

The girl realizes that she is good at lying and that the tree might hold the key to her father's murder, so she begins to spread untruths far and wide.

Frances Hardinge's wonderfully evocative YA fantasy novel was the Costa Book of the Year 2015, and is one of the best fantasy books for younger readers. 


by Neil Gaiman

Book cover for Stardust

In the tiny town of Wall, young Tristan Thorn is madly in love with the beautiful Victoria Forrester. When she agrees to marry him if he retrieves a fallen star he doesn’t hesitate. But to find the fallen star he’ll need to cross the ancient wall which the town is named for, into a world of magic and danger. This charming fairytale fantasy will delight fans of Naomi Novik’s Uprooted and Spinning Silver