Every year that passes feels like a notable one in the literary world. There is an endless parade belt of talented authors sharing their works on the global stage, especially so in the fantasy genre. The captivating world of these books captures readers’ imaginations perhaps like no other and this year has witnessed an explosion of imaginative stories that have caught global attention and subsequent recognition.
These novels take us on thrilling journeys filled with mythical creatures, epic quests, and the triumph of the human spirit.
They remind us that within the realm of fantasy, we can explore the depths of our own resilience and unleash the power of our imagination. Drawing inspiration from successful books that came before them, these authors have created rich and immersive worlds, complete with intricate mythologies and unforgettable characters.
By building upon the foundations laid by their predecessors, they’ve crafted narratives that not only hold our attention but also offer fresh perspectives and new insights.
Whether you are seeking an adrenaline-fueled adventure, a thought-provoking allegory, or a heartwarming tale of friendship and love, these books have something for everyone.
So, in this article we will take a look a closer look at five of the most notable fantasy stories and what aspiring authors can take from them as well as use to inspire their own writing.
Some of our picks for the best fantasy books of 2023 so far include:
- The Combat Codes – Alexander Darwin
- Lords of Uncreation – Adrian Tchaikovsky
- The Ferryman – Justin Cronin
- Chlorine – Jade Song
- Lone Women – Victor Lavelle
The Combat Codes – Alexander Darwin
The Combat Codes by Alexander Darwin is a thrilling and action-packed science fiction novel that immerses readers in a world where combat is an art form and warriors are forged through skill, strategy, and determination. Set in a dystopian future, the story follows Cego, a young and talented fighter who aspires to rise above the social hierarchy and prove his worth in the Combat Codes, a series of deadly martial arts tournaments. As Cego navigates the brutal world of combat, he discovers secrets that could change everything he thought he knew about his society. With vivid world-building, intense fight sequences, and intricate political intrigue, “The Combat Codes” delivers a compelling blend of adrenaline-pumping action and thought-provoking themes.
The cover art is worth paying attention to here as well, with no ambiguity about what readers can expect to find within its pages. Gamers will see an affinity with the Mortal Kombat logo as a fierce and menacing silver dragon dominates the page, almost leaping out into the readers arms.
Darwin’s writing style is dynamic and immersive, capturing the essence of each thrilling moment. The novel explores themes of social inequality, the power of determination, and the bonds of friendship amidst a backdrop of fierce battles. For fans of science fiction, martial arts, and captivating storytelling, this is a must read not only for fans of the genre but for any aspiring authors working in a similar vein.
Lords of Uncreation – Adrian Tchaikovsky
“Lords of Uncreation” by Adrian Tchaikovsky is a mesmerizing and imaginative dark fantasy novel that transports readers to a world teetering on the brink of destruction. Tchaikovsky, known for his masterful storytelling and inventive world-building, once again weaves a complex narrative filled with intricate characters and rich lore.
The book cover draws the reader in with a futuristic space battle taking place between futuristic looking aircraft and otherworldly planets.
In this epic tale, ancient beings known as the Lords of Uncreation threaten to unravel the fabric of reality itself. As chaos and darkness engulf the land, a disparate group of heroes must come together to confront the looming threat and restore balance. Tchaikovsky’s prose is spellbinding, seamlessly blending elements of horror, magic, and suspense to create an immersive reading experience. With its intricate plot, unexpected twists, and profound exploration of themes like power, sacrifice, and redemption, “Lords of Uncreation” stands as a testament to Tchaikovsky’s storytelling prowess.
Fantasy enthusiasts and fans of dark, atmospheric narratives will be captivated by this thrilling and thought-provoking adventure that showcases the depths of Tchaikovsky’s imagination.
The Ferryman – Justin Cronin
The Ferryman” by Justin Cronin is an enthralling and haunting supernatural thriller that will leave readers on the edge of their seats. Known for his gripping storytelling and compelling characters, Cronin has created a tale that delves into the realms of darkness and the unknown. In this suspenseful novel, a mysterious figure known as the Ferryman emerges, ferrying souls across the threshold of life and death. As a series of unexplainable events unfold, a group of individuals find themselves entangled in a web of secrets and malevolent forces beyond their comprehension.
Before readers even come across the first page the cover design shows a vast ocean expanse with one small sailing boat in the corner to emphasise the scale.
Cronin’s writing style is atmospheric and evocative, immersing readers in a world where the line between reality and the supernatural is blurred. With its clever twists, spine-chilling suspense, and thought-provoking exploration of mortality and redemption, “The Ferryman” is a captivating read for fans of supernatural thrillers.
Cronin’s mastery of suspense and his ability to create compelling characters make this novel an unforgettable journey into the realms of the unknown.
Chlorine – Jade Song
Chlorine, a remarkable and deeply resonant novel, fulfills a longing many have harbored, capturing the turbulent essence of adolescence as a form of body horror. Written with poignant cultural specificity, it embraces the experience of being a Chinese American girl, intertwining it with a rich tapestry of sapphic desire. Ren Yu, a gifted swimmer, is convinced that she is a mermaid, a belief that becomes both a fanciful escape and a defense mechanism against the harsh realities of her life.
The vibrant front cover of the book calls to mind the famous Hokusai print ‘The Great Wave of Kanaguwa’ except the waves are being broken by a mysterious sea creature whose face is obscured as it dives into the depths.
Ren finds herself bound to the land by the weight of her own ambitions and the relentless pressure exerted by her parents. Their constant push for achievement compounds her struggles, while her swim coach, inappropriately fixated on her, demands faster times and fosters a deep discomfort within her own skin.
Jade Song, the author of Chlorine, possesses a gift for combining the grotesque and the poetic, resulting in a profoundly lyrical narrative. She juxtaposes the sublime with the profoundly disturbing, leaving readers teetering on the edge of repulsion and awe. The visceral impact of the book is such that it nearly induces physical revulsion—a testament to its power.
Being a young girl already comes with a multitude of challenges, but Ren must navigate the added burdens of parental expectations, the predatory behavior of adult men, and the casual racism she encounters from her peers. Through Song’s vivid and evocative prose, these themes are explored with a raw and unflinching gaze, offering a searing portrayal of the complexities of identity and the struggles of youth.
Chlorine is a groundbreaking work that embraces the unspoken horrors of adolescence, providing a voice to those who have longed for a narrative that captures their experiences. With its fearless exploration of sexuality, culture, and personal growth, the novel immerses readers in a world both familiar and extraordinary. By delving into the depths of Ren’s mermaid mythology and the challenges she faces, Song crafts a profoundly affecting tale that resonates long after the final page is turned.
Lone Women – Victor Lavelle
In this riveting tale by Victor LaValle, Adelaide Henry embarks on a journey to Montana, seeking a fresh start as a homesteader after the tragic loss of her parents and the inferno that consumed her California home. Yet, burdened by a profound secret, she carries an enormous steam trunk that, when opened, brings death to those around her. Set in 1915, during Montana’s homestead boom, Adelaide faces an additional challenge as a Black woman traveling alone, encountering prejudice and hostility from those who resist her presence.
On the cover, as the title suggest, a lone woman stands in a farmers field in traditional dress, although her face is obscured by a seemingly menacing shadow arriving from overhead.
Within the pages of this masterfully crafted narrative, Victor LaValle skillfully weaves together elements of horror and fantasy, ensuring a tale that unfolds with impeccable pacing. As the story unfolds, it does so with bloody episodes, while also offering insightful commentary on the steep cost of existing as an outsider.
Throughout literary history, the Western genre has predominantly centered on the white imagination, occasionally touching upon the struggles of suffragettes. However, LaValle’s narrative shines a light on the tremendous power wielded by white women in upholding the interests of their white husbands, illuminating the lengths they would go to preserve the societal structures that grant them proximity to power.
Furthermore, “Lone Women” delves into the intricate web of shame and the complexities of the family unit, exposing how these factors uphold unspoken rules and perpetuate the ostracization of individuals who seek community support. LaValle’s thought-provoking exploration challenges the reader’s perception of societal norms, offering a profound reflection on the interplay between power, privilege, and personal identity.
With his unique blend of genres and a keen eye for social dynamics, Victor LaValle deftly crafts a tale that captivates and enlightens. Through Adelaide’s extraordinary journey, readers are invited to confront uncomfortable truths and confront the consequences of societal prejudices. “Lone Women” stands as a testament to LaValle’s ability to meld thrilling storytelling with incisive social commentary, leaving a lasting impact on those who dare to venture into its pages.
Are you inspired by the world of fantasy in 2023 so far?
As you can see from our look at the best fantasy books of 2023, what stands out is the melding of genres that go far beyond the narrow confines of what many would consider ‘fantasy’. This is perhaps a natural evolution of the literary genre as a combination of creativity and innovation are required to make a mark in today’s competitive market.
Writers perusing the above titles, will likely draw inspiration from the breadth of topics and themes contained with these novels, indicating a fearlessness from the authors to stay true to their vision and be uncompromising in the book they wish to write, regardless if at first glance it appears unconventional or unusual.
The great thing about working within fantasy is one is not bound by everyday convention or the laws of the universe as we know it, so any writer seeking to create their own masterpiece would be well placed to bear that in mind and think not just outside the box but maybe of a new box entirely.