The last 10 years have been a glorious time for fans of fantasy. We’ve been blessed with stories from authors of varied backgrounds, taking place in worlds familiar and strange, with stories both wildly original and based on a wide variety of mythology, folk tale, legend, and fairy tales. In sub-genres from low fantasy and magical realism to high fantasy and sword and sorcery, there have been a plethora of fantasy reads to satisfy every reader.
I’ve collected 42 of the very best of the best fantasy from the last 10 years. I liked the roundness of 2012 to 2022, though, so it’s really 11 years. These are primarily adult titles, with some young adult gems to round out the list. There’s everything from (d)jinn to witches to dragons; star daughters to moon daughters to bone shard daughters; goblin kingdoms to sea kingdoms to cities of brass. In short, there is something for everyone.
I am grateful to my fellow Book Riot contributors for helping me to compile this list — and I will get my revenge for the way you’ve ballooned my TBR!
Alif the Unseen by G. Willow Wilson (2012)
Alif is a young Arab Indian hacker in an unnamed Middle Eastern security state whose computer has just been breached by the state. When his lover’s fiancé sends state henchman after him, Alif goes underground and discovers the secret book of djinn.
Throne of the Crescent Moon by Saladin Ahmed (2012)
In the Crescent Moon Kingdoms, the Khalif and the Falcon Prince are fighting for power and a disparate band of travelers find themselves trying to save the life of a despot.
The Golem and the Jinni by Helene Wecker (2013)
When golem Chava and jinni Ahmad meet in turn-of-the-century immigrant New York, they become close friends until Chava’s violent nature threatens their bond.
The Goblin Emperor by Katherine Addison (2014)
When the goblin emperor and his sons are killed, his exiled half-goblin son must return. He has no knowledge of court politics, no friends, and no idea who he can trust.
A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab (2015)
Kell is one of the last remaining magicians who can travel between the different Londons. When Lila, a pickpocket, joins him, both of their lives are changed forever — as are the four Londons.
An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir (2015)
When enslaved Laia’s brother is arrested for treason, she risks her life to become a spy in exchange for a promise from the rebels that they will rescue him. Then she meets Elias, an elite and unwilling soldier.
The Fifth Season by N.K. Jemisin (2015)
Essun leaves her home after her husband kills their son and kidnaps their daughter. This book and both of the following books in the trilogy won the Hugo Award for Best Novel.
Sorcerer to the Crown by Zen Cho (2015)
According to The Royal Society of Unnatural Philosophers, sorcery is a man’s job. And magic is drying up in England. Zacharias Wythe, the Sorcerer Royal, travels to Fairyland to find out why, and there he meets sorceress Prunella Gentlewoman.
Uprooted by Naomi Novik (2015)
The Dragon protects Agnieszka’s village, and in exchange they give him a young woman every 10 years. Agnieszka is afraid he will choose her dear friend Kasia, but nothing goes as she expects.
The City of Brass by S.A. Chakraborty (2017)
When con woman Nahri accidentally summons djinn warrior Dara, they have to flee Cairo for the legendary Daevabad, the city of brass, where a war is brewing and Nahri’s presence may tip the balance.
Jade City by Fonda Lee (2017)
On the island of Kekon, the Kaul family uses jade to enhance their magical abilities and protect their home from invaders who have other ideas for using jade. But in the new generation of Kauls, four siblings disagree about the future.
Wintersong by S. Jae Jones (2017)
When Liesl’s sister Käthe is taken by the goblin king, she travels after them to rescue her, and is faced with the choice to offer herself in Käthe’s place. But staying could kill her.
The Hazel Wood by Melissa Albert (2018)
After Alice’s grandmother, author of “Tales From the Hinterland,” dies, her mother is kidnapped and the only person Alice can trust — barely — is Ellery, a boy obsessed with her grandmother’s writing. To save Alice’s mother, they have to do the one thing she warned Alice not to: go into the Hazel Wood.
Trail of Lightning by Rebecca Roanhorse (2018)
The Dinétah have survived the rising waters of climate apocalypse, and warrior Maggie is hired to track down a missing girl. With the help of medicine man Kai, she battles monsters and trades favors with tricksters.
Witchmark by C.L. Polk (2018)
In an alternate Edwardian England, magician Miles hides his gift, practicing medicine after faking his own death. But a very handsome man finds out his secret, and together they try to find out who killed a patient at the veteran’s hospital.
Descendant of the Crane by Joan He (2019)
Hesina’s father was the king and meant to teach her how to rule. When he dies unexpectedly, the doctors say it was natural causes, but she knows it was murder. (Please note: this book was republished in 2022, and that is the only legitimate version.)
Gods of Jade and Shadow by Silvia Moreno-Garcia (2019)
Casiopia is a servant in her own home, until she opens a wooden box in her grandfather’s room and accidentally frees the god of death, who asks for her help reclaiming his throne from his brother.
Magic for Liars by Sarah Gailey (2019)
Nonmagical P.I. Ivy is pulled into the magical world her sister Tabitha inhabits when she is hired to solve the magical killing of a teacher at the school where Tabitha works.
Ninth House by Leigh Bardugo (2019)
After Alex survives a multiple homicide, she’s offered a full ride to Yale. The catch: she has to monitor the school’s secret societies, dragging her into a world of forbidden magic.
Priory of the Orange Tree by Samantha Shannon (2019)
Queen Sabran needs a daughter to be her heir. Lady-in-waiting Ead protects Sabran with forbidden magic, but if Sabran refuses to marry and produce an heir, the Nameless One, a great wyrm, will lay waste to the kingdom.
The Ten Thousand Doors of January by Alix E. Harrow (2019)
January once went through a Door into another world…almost. Years later, she finds a book full of stories about such Doors, and discovers that her guardian is not what he seems, and her father may be more than he seems.
The Bone Shard Daughter by Andrea Stewart (2020)
The emperor uses bone shard magic to keep his empire, and as his rule begins to fail and a rebellion forms, his daughter, who he refuses to recognize as his heir, secretly begins to learn bone shard magic.
Girl, Serpent, Thorn by Melissa Bashardoust (2020)
Soraya’s poisonous touch means that she is kept hidden away from the world, but when her twin brother marries, she finds someone who can help her change her own fate.
Race the Sands by Sarah Beth Durst (2020)
In this monstrous retelling of National Velvet, Tamra is a former trainer in the Becaran Races, and she needs to enter — and win — one last time, so she agrees to work with inexperienced rider Raia.
Star Daughter by Shveta Thakrar (2020)
When half-star Sheetal accidentally injures her human father, she goes in search of a star like her mother to save him, and must enter a competition for the ruling house of the heavens if she hopes to help him.
The Year of the Witching by Alexis Henderson (2020)
An outcast because of her mixed race, Immanuelle tries to follow the Prophet’s teaching, but when she finds herself in the forbidden Darkwood, she learns secrets about the first Prophet and her own mother that lead her to question everything she knows.
The Chosen and the Beautiful by Nghi Vo (2021)
In this reimagining of The Great Gatsby, Jordan is a queer, Vietnamese adoptee with just a little bit of magic, and a thirst to learn more.
The Gilded Ones by Namina Forna (2021)
Deka’s blood runs gold instead of red, making her an outcast in her village. Then she is invited to join an army of girls like herself and stop the greatest threat against the empire. But there are more surprises to come.
The Inheritance of Orquídea Divina by Zoraida Córdova (2021)
When matriarch Orquídea invites her family to her funeral, they hope to finally learn family secrets. Instead, she transforms into a tree and they are left with more questions. Years later, her descendants are blessed with new powers, but someone is killing off the family line and they have to unearth her secrets once and for all.
The Jasmine Throne by Tasha Suri (2021)
Exiled Malini dreams of vengeance in her temple prison. Priestess Priya, posing as a simple maid, waits on her, but when Malini sees her true powers, they realize they can work together.
Light From Uncommon Stars by Ryka Aoki (2021)
To avoid damnation, Shizuka made a deal with the devil: she just has to lure seven other violinists to trade their souls for success. She’s found six so far, and thinks Katrina will be the seventh. But then she meets Lan, an interstellar refugee and donut shop owner, and her priorities change.
She Who Became the Sun by Shelly Parker-Chan (2021)
The eighth-born son is destined for greatness, while his second-born sister is destined for nothing. When bandits attack them and he is killed, she takes his place…and his destiny.
The Unbroken by C.L. Clark (2021)
A princess sent to stop a rebellion and a soldier desperate for peace team up to haggle over the price of their nation.
Babel by R.F. Kuang (2022)
In 19th century Oxford, Robin prepares to attend Oxford University’s prestigious Royal Institute of Translation, a.k.a. Babel, where translators wield silver magic. But when Britain declares war on China, Robin has to choose a side.
The City of Dusk by Tara Sim (2022)
The four realms, Life, Death, Light, and Darkness, meet in the City of Dusk. The gods have withdrawn their favor, and the city is dying, but the four heirs ally themselves to save their home.
Daughter of the Moon Goddess by Sue Lynn Tan (2022)
Xingyin lives on the moon with her exiled mother, hidden from the Celestial Emperor. But when her magic reveals her whereabouts, Xingyin leaves the moon and undergoes a quest to save her mother, concealing her identity and partnering with the Emperor’s son.
The Girl Who Fell Beneath the Sea by Axie Oh (2022)
Every year, a maiden is sacrificed as the Sea God’s bride, in hopes that one year he will choose his True Bride. To save her brother’s beloved, Mina throws herself into the water in her stead, and finds the Sea God in an enchanted sleep. She doesn’t have long to wake him and save her home.
Kaikeyi by Vaishnavi Patel (2022)
Kaikeyi, the daughter of the kingdom of Kekaya, refuses to be reduced to her marriageability, and seeks out magic that transforms her from an overlooked princess to a warrior queen.
The Spear Cuts Through Water by Simon Jimenez (2022)
A god escapes from captivity and flees her own sons, going on a pilgrimage with unlikely allies in an attempt to end the Moon Throne.
The Stardust Thief by Chelsea Abdullah (2022)
Loulie hunts and sells illegal magic, but when she saves the life of a prince, his sultan father blackmails her into finding a magical lamp that has the power to revive the land, and to destroy the jinn.
This Woven Kingdom by Tahereh Mafi (2022)
Alizeh is the heir to the jinn kingdom, hiding in plain sight as a servant. Kamran is the prince who is falling for her.
When Women Were Dragons by Kelly Barnhill
Alex was a child when the Mass Dragoning of 1955 saw hundreds of thousands of women turn into dragons. But no one talks about that anymore.
And there you have it:
10 11 years’ worth of the best fantasy novels. I can’t wait to see what the next 10 bring.