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12 Swashbuckling SFF Books That Are a Cut Above

These adventure-filled reads will slice you deep. 

swashbuckling sff books

Have you ever had those days when you want to sit down, grab a book, and cheer on fictional protagonists as they stick their enemies with the pointy end of a sword? Me too! Fight scenes immediately become more thrilling when stabbing and slicing are on the table, in my opinion.

Sword and sorcery makes up a large pillar of the SFF genre—and for good reason. The rush and excitement of this subgenre is truly on the next level. So, if you’re feeling particularly stabby today, here are a dozen swashbuckling SFF books that you can sink your teeth into. Let’s have some fun!

Empress of All Seasons

Empress of All Seasons

By Emiko Jean

In this novel set in a Japanese-inspired fantasy world where yōkai are hunted and imprisoned, Mari has dedicated her life to winning the imperial throne. 

All she needs to do is to survive the palace's magical challenges while concealing her half-yōkai identity, especially from the cold human prince in line to inherit the court. (And yes, there are great scenes involving Japanese blades, such as the katana and naginata!)

heart of mist

Heart of Mist

By Helen Scheuerer

On the run from an evil king who wishes to weaponize her forbidden magic, Bleak seeks protection from the Valia Kindred, a scandalous society of women warriors skilled in archery and swordplay. But she's soon thrust into a much bigger battle against the backdrop of a pervasive, poisonous mist. This novel takes swords, sorcery, and secrecy to epic proportions.

the mermaid the witch and the sea

The Mermaid, the Witch, and the Sea

By Maggie Tokuda-Hall

What’s more swashbuckling than a good ol’ pirate adventure set on the dangerous high seas? This fantasy follows an unlikely pair of lovers—namely, an orphaned pirate and a naïve noblewoman—as they fight for their freedom. 

But make no mistake! Amidst the fun action and mutual pining, there’s also a lot of darkness in this story as it explores violence, substance abuse, and imperialism.

asian authors tbr list shadow of the fox

Shadow of the Fox

By Julie Kagawa

Perfect for readers who enjoy a high-stakes hero's journey with gloriously fun side quests, this YA fantasy follows a half-kitsune girl and a mysterious samurai with a cursed sword. Legends say that this notoriously bloodthirsty blade contains a trapped demon determined to lead his master into the dark side forever.

the crimson queen

The Crimson Queen

By Alec Hutson

Set 1,000 years after the mass execution of all surviving sorcerers, this story begins with a fisherman's son discovering an aptitude for magic. Circumstances force him to leave his small village and undertake a quest to meet the Crimson Queen. However, the journey won’t be a peaceful one.

the ember blade

The Ember Blade

By Chris Wooding

Shattered by a world he once knew and caught in a brewing revolution, Aren is tasked to steal the fabled Ember Blade from an impenetrable vault in the most heavily guarded fortress in the land. It is believed that this legendary sword is key to his people's salvation.

RELATED: 12 of the Greatest Grimdark Fantasy Books Ever

books like Lord of the Rings

The Grace of Kings

By Ken Liu

In this gripping first installment of an epic silkpunk fantasy series, two men from opposing walks of life—a thief and the vengeful son of a duke—become best friends and fight alongside each other in a violent uprising against the tyrannical emperor. 

However, in the aftermath of the revolution, they fall into mutual resentment and rivalry as they each lead separate factions with conflicting views on how to rebuild society.



By John Gwynne

In the age-old fight of good vs. evil where angels and devils selfishly use the world as their battlefield, young Corban yearns to be trained in sword and spear to protect the realm, and is determined to prove his worth. 

In this first installment of a series, Corban grows into his manhood and eventually evolves into the courageous warrior he aspires to become.

the justice of kings

The Justice of Kings

By Richard Swan

Serving as the empire's detective and executioner, Sir Konrad Vonvalt's reputation as the Emperor's Justice allows him to get almost any job done without much fuss. But when his investigation into the murder of an aristocrat unexpectedly unravels a monumental conspiracy, Vonvalt finds himself faced with the most difficult choice yet.

paladins grace

Paladin's Grace

By T. Kingfisher

A dishearted paladin and a shady perfumer find themselves entangled in a web of court intrigue and treachery that could get them killed—if the serial killer loose on the streets doesn’t get to them first. 

For readers who enjoy swordplay mixed with romance and mystery, this is the book recommendation that you’ve been waiting for.

red sister

Red Sister

By Mark Lawrence

This story features a magical academy with assassin nuns-in-training! What more could you want?

At the Convent of Sweet Mercy, despite its name, young girls are trained to become lethal assassins, spies, and magicians. 

When young farm girl Nona is rescued and taken under the convent’s care, she fights to fulfill her potential amongst a cohort of young girls determined to see her fail. 

traitors blade

Traitor's Blade

By Sebastien de Castell

The Greatcoats is an ancient order of traveling duelists who bring law and justice to all in the kingdom. But when their king is executed and their order disbanded, Falcio Val Mond and his companions are reduced into working low-wage security jobs until a royal conspiracy forces them (and their swords) to action.