There’s nothing like picking up a Fantasy novel/series that just seems to suck you into its story and world, but it’s a whole other level when the world feels unique and new to you. Some of this just has to do with diversifying your reading and straying from the stories/characters/worlds that we’ve grown up with or accustomed to, but sometimes a book/series just leaves you feeling like you’ve touched a whole new world. This list a grouping of books that left me feeling like I had touched on something new and unexplored even after years of reading. That is to say that these are my opinion, and always open to change as I read more each year.
Lord of the Rings
I’m not really putting this in the list, but if you haven’t read Lord of the Rings and love Fantasy then I’ll say I’m very surprised. The reason I’d say this one needs to be mentioned at the very least is that Tolkien actually began with the language then the world and then the characters and story. A bit backward if compared to other writers, but very on point with him. It also means that the world of Middle Earth is as complex and well built as you’ll likely ever see. It is also one of the reasons I’m not really putting it on the list; everyone knows of this series at this point, and it isn’t saying anything new, it just needs to be said.
Cassandra Clare’s Shadowhunters World
This might not be the most complex series, or mature if you talk to heavy Fantasy readers, but this one holds a special place for me and seems to just be never-ending story wise. It’s also one of the few modern world stories that I’d say has a world worth mentioning. The Mortal Instruments may be the weakest entry, but at the very least it introduced us to a world that is the gift that keeps giving. It’s a pretty simple setup with a mundane world that also happens to have werewolves, vampires, shadow hunters, and warlocks/witches walking amongst us. The unique side of things is in the shadow hunters who don’t quite truly belong among the humans, but aren’t friendly with the downworlders either when we first get to know them.
The Daevabad Trilogy by S.A. Chakraborty
This one continues to stay rooted in my mind when I think of Fantasy today. Combining elements of magic, folklore, and a concept of djinn that is often misunderstood in western media this story world completely took me by surprise. While I loved the characters, dramatic plot, and intrigue, the story world was what continued to amaze me, steadily growing with each stage of the plot and twists. Nothing ever felt “made-up” or “coincidental” in this series, always building on knowledge we had some small clue to. It also has been one of the best escapes from the real world I’ve had in a while.
Red Rising by Pierce Brown
I still need to read Dark Age, so I’m really going off the first three books, which I’d say make a perfect trilogy. If you ask me what the first thing I think of when it comes to this series is, it may not be its world, but even saying that there are few stories I can think of that seem to combine space, bloodshed at this level, greek/roman mythology, and intrigue all while throwing some pretty tough villains at you. There are a lot more series set in space now beyond the originals like Star Trek, Star Wars, and Halo, but Red Rising marked a beginning for dark and dangerous fights in space versus the Space Opera we all grew up with.
The Mirror Visitor Quartet by Christelle Dabos
I am so excited for the last book to come out this next month, and it has a lot to do with the world that is slowly unfolding book by book in this series. The first book literally gives us access to two arks (scattered islands of a broken world) as the main character sets off to marry a stranger from a dangerous neighboring ark. This dark change marks the beginning of a quest that takes her to different arks, each with its own culture and dark secrets.
The Bone Season by Samantha Shannon
This series is one I need to get back into with a new book finally out in the market, but I can promise that this one remains one that surprised me with its introduction of clairvoyants as those who are “special” in this world. The powers that make them special though, are also what makes many of them have to hide as it puts them in danger of being taken by the creatures in power over humans, the Rephaim. This is another series with a slow introduction to its world, but the idea of clairvoyance being both the great power and danger to the characters was an interesting, and different concept after a string of wizard based stories that we are all used to.
What books/series world felt unique to you? What made it unique? Let me know in the comments below!