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8 of the Best Fantasy Books for Adults 

These beguiling novels will help you fall in love with magic again. 

this collage of adult fantasy books includes the magicians and black wine

Whether you’re a shy middle schooler in search of a magical realm that’s more exciting than real life or an overworked adult determined to find your way back to Wonderland, all you need to do is the right fantasy novel to embark on a thrilling adventure. After all, fantasy books are for everyone, period. 

That being said, there are plenty of fantasy novels that are aimed at a primarily adult readership, tackling mature themes and topics in a nuanced way. Many of these novels assume that the audience is already familiar with the tropes and trappings of the fantasy genre, and hence, can take new risks that push the boundaries of form or probe some deep-seated assumptions about both fictional and real worlds. Such works not only offer a grand escape from everyday life, but also help you return to mundane reality with a more refreshed and thoughtful outlook.

So, add these enchanting novels to your TBR pile and rediscover a realm of magic and mystery again!

Our Favorite Adult Fantasy Books

best science fiction books

The Fifth Season

By N.K. Jemisin

At first, N.K. Jemisin’s The Fifth Season (2015) might seem like a challenging read, but it’s also a deeply satisfying one. The novel (first of a Hugo award-winning trilogy) unfolds on a supercontinent called the Stillness, ravaged by frequent earthquakes and the vagaries of climate change. Those who have the ability to manipulate the planet’s seismic activity are feared and hated, killed by mobs or sent off to a train at a special occasion. 

Masterfully narrated in second person, The Fifth Season follows one woman’s journey through various periods of her life, as we watch the land and its various communities get dismantled and rebuilt over and over again. And if you had a good time with this, I’d suggest you complete the trilogy as well. 

The Name of the Wind Patrick Rothfuss

The Name of the Wind

By Patrick Rothfuss

Fair warning: We still don’t know when the final book in The Kingkiller Chronicle will release, which might deter some completionists. But that doesn’t mean The Name of the Wind (2007) isn’t worth reading and appreciating as a standalone. 

Perfect for fans who grew up on the works of Tolkien and other high fantasy novelists, The Name of the Wind narrates the story of Kvothe—now a humble innkeeper—but actually an infamous magician and fighter, known throughout the lands and even rumored to have killed a king. But as we listen to Kvothe’s account, we begin to suspect that he’s an unreliable narrator even as we are swayed by his tales of daring magic and mayhem. 



By Frank Herbert

Now that the second part of Dennis Villeneuve’s adaptation of Frank Herbert’s 1965 masterpiece novel is out in theaters, it’s a great time to read Dune and learn more about life on Arrakis or the machinations of the mysterious Benne Gesserit whose political aims are measured in centuries. 

While the movies do a tremendous job in summarizing the main plot points, they leave out plenty of interesting and intriguing details pertaining to white saviorism, ecological awareness, religious powers, and Islamic cultures, which are well worth exploring and thinking about. 

Black Wine

Black Wine

By Candas Jane Dorsey

A rather short and utterly magical novel, Black Wine (1996) by Candas Jane Dorsey was the winner of the Aurora, Crawford and Tiptree awards. With interweaving plot points and multiple female characters struggling with societal issues, the novel is peppered with dry humor as it probes important questions relating to sexuality, politics, history and human connection in a very cerebral and satisfying way. If you’re looking to add more feminist speculative fiction to your bookshelf, get this one right now.

books like Harry Potter

Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell

By Susanna Clarke

A hefty tome with copious footnotes and written in a deliberately Dickensian language, Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell (2004) is an ambitious reimagining of the Napoleonic Wars that blends alternative history, Victoriana and English folklore in the most wonderful way possible. It focuses on the friendship between the two titular magicians, whose skills are harnessed by the government in the war effort, but their experiments with magic are not without consequence. 

If you enjoyed this one, I’d also highly recommend Piranesi (2020), written by the same author that is also gloriously inventive and softly lyrical, also aimed at adult readers.   

best audiobooks sci fi fantasy The Magicians Lev Grossman

The Magicians

By Lev Grossman

An achingly beautiful, gripping read, The Magicians (2009) by Lev Grossman is perfect for adult fantasy readers who grew up reading Harry Potter and the Chronicles of Narnia and are bitter about the lack of magic and portals to hidden dimensions in their humdrum lives. 

In The Magicians, Grossman explores the idea of stumbling into magic much later in life and the tribulations and adventures that may result. So instead of a boarding school, we have a magical college with characters navigating messy adult relationships, responsibilities as well as fantastical escapades along the way.   

Tales of Neveryon

Tales of Neveryon

By Samuel R. Delany

Delany is one of the best speculative fiction writers that everyone who professes to love the genre should have read. While he has several noteworthy works, fantasy fans can pick up Tales of Nevèrÿon that collect five sword-and-sorcery tales in a single volume published in 1978. Though well-plotted and pretty entertaining in their own right, these stories also comment on the sword-and-sorcery genre itself and are guaranteed to stay with you for a long time.

best science fiction fantasy books 2022

The Spear Cuts Through Water

By Simon Jimenez

Finally, if you’re in the mood for a beguiling and structurally inventive novel, you must check out The Spear Cuts Through Water (2022) by critically acclaimed writer, Simon Jimenez. While the frame story features a grandchild listening to stories about the Old Country, it also narrates an epic journey across the Old Country undertaken by two warrior shepherds and a dying goddess. It’s gorgeously dreamlike, deeply layered, softly poetic, with stories carefully nested in one an another—a majestic ode to the art of storytelling itself.