Best Fantasy Books We’ve Recently Reviewed
Every day, Hidden Gems subscribers receive the opportunity to review hundreds of complimentary books spanning more than 15 genres – hopefully leaving an honest review on Amazon when they’re done. A regular feature on this blog is a periodic highlight of some true ‘Hidden Gems’ our subscribers discovered in various genres, and why you might want to check them out. Keep checking back for the latest lists, categorized by genre, and learn about some of the best books that we’ve sent out. Or, join our list of readers and help discover future gems yourself!
The fantasy genre has always been one of the most evergreen in publishing – and this summer was no exception, with a plethora of books we had the opportunity to share with our subscribers by a host of talented authors. As always, it was hard to narrow down our favorites to just ten of the best fantasy books, but here are some true ‘Hidden Gems’ for summer 2018.
The General’s Legacy by Adrian G Hilder
British author Adrian G. Hilder kicks off his General of Valendo series with The General’s Legacy, which sees a young prince, Cory thrust into a position of leadership he’s ill-equipped for after the untimely death of his grandfather. I’ve always been a fan of fantasy, and Hilder’s book magnificently keeps the familiar tropes fresh by introducing strong female characters, and a grisly device in the form of undead warriors.
Meggiepoo wrote: “I was sucked right into this world from the first page! Medieval swordplay, mages, necromancers, knights, maidens (who rescue themselves, thank you very much) – what more do you need? The world is well-built, with enough historical detail to help orient the reader and the current events, but not so many that it feels encyclopedic. The main characters are fully-realized, detailed, and deep, and the side characters are, for the most part, great additions to the story. The plot is fast-paced and exciting, with just enough surprises to keep you guessing. And that ending! I won’t spoil it, but the climactic ending will wow you!”
“This was a fantastic read,” reviewer JMD0815 agreed, and also praised the most difficult aspect of all fantasy writing; creating a brand-new world that is seamlessly immersive. “The world building was very creative and the characters were well developed. Cool story line and it was hard to put down.”
License to Spell by Paige Howland
As you already know, I’m a sucker for a good spy adventure – and Paige Howard’s first book in the Undercover Witch series manages to combine the breathless pace of a good teen spy saga with the thrills and magical spills of a contemporary fantasy book – akin to Sabrina the Teenage Witch.
The plot sees young Ainsley Winters – the self-confessed ‘least talented witch in Washington DC’ – being unexpectedly recruited by hottie CIA Agent Connor to track down a merciless dark mage with a very Bond-villain agenda.
Reviewer JL Williams praised the strong female lead of this fast-paced romp: “I found Ainsley to be a strong female character who accepts who she is and it was refreshing not to have a female lead be so dependent on the male character. ”
Krystyna praised the pace and writing: “A absolutely terrific plot, filled with humor, magic, schemes within schemes and where no-one is to be taken at face value. Wonderful characters from our gutsy, naive heroine to the two hunks that try to keep her alive.”
Sand and Storm by Stella Dorthwany
Fantasy meets romance in the first book of the Legendary Magic series by Stella Dorthwany. The plot sees cousins Faryn and Cora travel to the enchanted Caladoner desert – ostensibly to uncover dragon sarcophagi, but in reality for a far more sinister reason: A magical storm is threatening to change their world altogether, and only a long-buried weapon offers them a chance to save the nature of their magical world.
If you took a good sword-and-sorcery book, threw in a dash of Indiana Jones, then wrapped it up with a sprinkle of Hogwarts magic and a steamy (but clean) romance, you’d have something vaguely similar to Dorthwany’s book. It’s truly unique and fits easily into a list of the best fantasy books of this summer.
“I LOVE THIS BOOK!” Reviewer Onlyonequestion minces no words. “First, the romance is fantastic. It’s clean, but still steamy, and there’s plenty of it! Second, the world-building and magic system are very well done. Sand magic is the coolest and I would love to read more about it.”
“This is a lush, atmospheric, tightly-woven book,” Emily L. Ayers writers. “The characters are vivid and finely drawn (a little too vivid in some cases–the depictions of the tensions in the arranged marriage between Cora and Damorin had my stomach in knots at times), the magic system well-thought out and intriguing, and the plot well-paced.”
Oak Seer by Craig Comer
A steampunk-themed Scotland is the setting for the second in Craig Comer’s Fey Matter series, which sees Effie – a Seily noble (the Scottish word for a ‘light’ fairy) forced to travel to the grit and grim of London in order to broker a piece between her kind and the increasingly industrialized humans. In order to achieve that goal, she’ll have to become more than just a fairy – and earn a title and power long-since lost within her culture.
Blending genres is always difficult, but reviewer Lenadariel praised that aspect of the book – writing: “The steampunk side is fun, with enough detail to be entertaining, but without too much that it’s overwhelming or difficult for those not familiar with the genre.”
Shane’s Girl agreed with that appraisal: “Oak Seer is a wonderful gaslight novel combining a bit of steampunk (but not so much it’s overwhelming, just the right amount!) plus an awesome cast of characters. I really enjoy the Scottish touch and found all the historical accuracies an amazing addition.”
Shadow Pack by Marc Daniel
Shadow Pack introduces the character of Michael Biörn, a thousand-year-old shifter hired by Houston’s police department to track down the other-wordly killer of the city’s cops. Michael knows that a werewolf is responsible – but the danger with werewolves is that they never operate alone.
Avid Book Lover praised the mystery of the plot, which kept them guessing to the very end: “This story is a GREAT paranormal suspense/romance story. I was TOTALLY surprised by who the actual villain in the story WAS when it was finally revealed—and I think you will be surprised as well.”
Debra Eileen Williams praised the characterization, which she thought managed to overcome the often difficult hurdle of dealing with both human and animal aspects to a single character: “Characterization was fantastic. Michael stayed true to the fact that he had two sides – human and paranormal. Sometimes the sides were not in agreement and he was torn, but that added to his humanity. It was the same with the other characters. The things that they did and the choices they made were true to their nature and knowledge.”
Unholy Trinity by Marc Daniel
Fans won over by Shadow Pack were rewarded this summer with a chance to read another from the series, and good enough to also make our list of one of the best fantasy books to read this summer.
A thousand-year-old shape-shifter finds himself hot on the trail of a legendary foe in the second of the Michael Biörn series, which sees the laws of nature turned on their head when vampires begin walking in sunlight, with impunity, and locals start disappearing at an alarming rate.
Reviewer Erika F. Thirkill praised the characterization and plot of the book in her review, writing: “Unholy Trinity’s characters were well developed, and there was enough subterfuge to have me scratching my head trying to figure things out a couple of times. I found it hard to put the book down.”
Megan V has followed the whole series, and recommends it to fans of crime and fantasy: “I absolutely love this series, I have read Shadow Pack and Unholy Trinity, and have found both of these books incredibly hard to put down. I love the writing style, and how the chapters are pretty short, and change from person to person in both books. This really added to the plot for me, because you get the information from different perspectives and you are trying to put all of the pieces together. I highly recommend this series to anyone that loves paranormal, mysteries, or crime novels, both books are very fast paced and will keep you hooked.”
The Coldest Day of the Year by Daniel Sutter
A bone-chilling winter serves as perhaps the most terrifying adversary in this fantasy adventure, which sees the heiress to the kingdom of Fallicorn come under siege in the snowbound northern villages; with only a mismatched and resentful retinue to fight alongside her.
Reviewer Nick Suttner praised the world-building that helps bring this book to life, admitting: “I tend to be hesitant of hopping into new fantasy worlds, in any long-form medium, as their lore tends to either be overly complex and specific, or too generic and templated. I think Dan found a perfect balance in The Coldest Day of the Year, where it feels like an intriguing peek into a much wider world, but focused smartly on the core cast of characters and social dynamics that make the story interesting.”
Matthew Nehmer similarly praised the world-building, and loved the fast-paced writing style and engaging plot. “A rippling good yarn. Distinct, original, yet with hints of the familiar, especially with its genre-bending treatment of fantasy fiction. Sutter is a world builder with a talent for memorable characters, humor, and quirk. He keeps the reader guessing with a story that propels from the first line to the last page.”
A Scarlet Fever by C. Rene Astle
Mina Sun wakes one morning irrevocably altered by a one-night stand – thrust into a reluctant existence as a member of the undead. If that wasn’t bad enough, she finds herself in the middle of a battle between vampire factions; and facing the threat of a legendary, mythical evil awoken from an ancient slumber.
“The story was engaging,” praises reviewer Halibut Queen. “The characters had depth, the action was fast paced, and the writing was very good. The story is about two groups of vampires. One takes as its mission guarding humans from things that go bump in the night – and it turns out there are a lot of things that prey on both humans and vampires.”
“A Scarlet Fever drew me in from the start, reminding me of Interview with the Vampire,” writes Jeanette Bedard. “I sympathized with Mina as she transformed into a vampire and discovered the complex new world that awaited her. The different vampire factions are at war right in the heart of the city Mina loves.”
Dionna’s Warrior by Ruby Ryan
Author Ruby Ryan had established a reputation for herself with the Gryphon Vs Dragons series, and in the Dragon Origins series, she continues with more of the same; seamlessly blending high fantasy with romance, and engaging readers with her fast-paced, visceral writing.
“A great reverse harem story that kept me reading from start to finish,” writes reviewer Faye. “I just couldn’t put it down. Loved the characters and it has everything that you want in a story – action, dragons, magic and drama.”
Reviewer Brandy praised the world-building of Ruby Ryan’s tale, which is often the biggest challenge a fantasy author needs to overcome. “I am very impressed with the world Ruby has created. Not only that, but this story doesn’t start off with sunshine and roses. Dionna is definitely a heroine able to connect in a more organic manner with her men – especially in dealing with each of their personal issues. I can’t wait for the next installment.”
Stones of Dracontias by N.D. Jones
“A life without love, forbidden or not, is a life unlived…” So author N. D. Jones sets the scene for Stones of Dracontias, a whirlwind fantasy romance that sees a beautiful dragon shifter and a handsome human facing an undeniable attraction to each other that threatens to ignite a long-dormant conflict between humans and dragon-kind.
Reviewer Emily Pennington praised the romantic elements of the book: “This was a very different approach to a love story. Kya and Alexander meet and, over time, they fall in love, learning what it is to respect differences and value what is truly important in life. The story line is full of action and suspense, some really great events and some really upsetting ones. But the author handles the story very well and the reader won’t regret reading this one. It will stay with you!”
Denice called it “One powerful story!” She especially liked how N.D. Jones used the conventions of fantasy romance to explore real-life issues related to race and prejudice. “A tale of two different species meeting and proving that presumptions and prejudicial judgments don’t pertain to everyone. A few or a lot of bad people do not represent any species, as a whole. Armstrong and Kya prove this through their love and with the sacrifices and love they share.”