Put down your axes and sweet rolls, people, and get ready to read. Did you know that our beloved Skyrim is going to be nine years old this fall? It seems like just yesterday we were all getting our first dragon souls and discovering the joy of shouting goats off of mountain tops. Frankly, I don’t think I’ll ever get tired of Skyrim. There’s still so much that I haven’t done! So much chaos I haven’t created! But whether like me you’re just looking to add more adventures like Skyrim to your life, or you looking to fill that Skyrim-sized void in your heart because you’ve discovered all there was to discover and killed all there was to kill, this list of books like Skyrim is brimming with enough heroes, magics, creatures, and battles to keep you turning pages long after the dragonfire burns out.**
**Book Riot does not condone trying to use dragonfire for illumination. Or dragons as lamps.
YA Fantasy Books Like Skyrim
The Boneless Mercies by April Genevieve Tucholke
This, folks, is THE Skyrim book (at least as far as I’m concerned). If you read only one book on this list, make it Tucholke’s The Boneless Mercies. I put off buying my own copy of Skyrim for the longest time because I had other games I hadn’t played half to death that I wanted to finish first. But reading The Boneless Mercies gave me such a craving. The first thing I did when I finished the book was order Skyrim—once I got done building a shrine to this gorgeous, epic book of monsters and mercenary girls. Boneless Mercies are in the death trade. They are paid to kill, and to bring a quick and easy death to their victims. But Frey was raised on sagas, and has always wanted more than the life of a mercy killing outcast. So when word reaches them of a monster with a price on its head laying waste to the countryside, she sees a way out for her and all the Mercies. This Beowulf retelling was one of my top reads of last year, and the first Skyrim read-alike I thought of when pulling together this list.
An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir
Like the Imperials in Skyrim, the Martial Empire of An Ember in the Ashes is inspired by ancient Rome. So if you are a staunch Stormcloak, or just find the Imperials really, really annoying, here’s a whole book, the first in an excellent series, all about overthrowing a brutal, colonizing empire. Both Laia and Elias were raised within the Martial empire. Laia grew up among the Empire’s poor, among those so downtrodden by the Empire that most don’t dare challenge its power. Elias grew up a favored son of the Empire, the finest soldier in the greatest of the imperial military academies, who hates all that the Empire stands for. When Laia ends up embedded within the school as a spy for the rebellion she joins forces with Elias in an attempt to take down the Empire itself and change their world.
Warrior of the Wild by Tricia Levenseller
You fail your coming-of-age trial and go off into the monster-strewn wilderness to kill a god. What could go wrong? Just another quest in the realm of Sky—oh wait, that’s the plot of Tricia Levenseller’s YA, viking-inspired novel, not one of the five million quests in my quest menu. If you are of the axe-swinging, monster killing persuasion (and if you’re reading this list I’m going to go with yes), definitely consider adding this Skyrim read-alike to your list. Rasmira is finally 18, finally ready to face her coming-of-age trial, and finally ready to become a warrior and lead her people. But when her trial is sabotaged, causing her to fail, her own father banishes her to the wilderness. Where she teams up with a misfit group of other teens with really negligent parents to take on the impossible task of killing a god. Really hope she leveled up her heavy armor.
Adult Fantasy Books Like Skyrim
The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms by N.K. Jemisin
Power struggles. Power struggles everywhere. One of the plots at the heart of Skyrim is of course the civil war that is threatening to tear the country in two (if the dragons don’t turn it all into a barbecue first)—and I say that with all the certainty of one who has never in her life actually played either of the main plots of Skyrim all the way through. I embrace that sandbox, wandering warrior/errand girl life. So when I started compiling my must-read list of books like Skyrim, I knew I needed to include N.K. Jemisin’s The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms. Because at the heart of this debut novel is an empty throne, and the epic tale of of a woman raised from outcast to royal heir who finds herself drain into a violent conflict for the right to rule the Hundred Thousand Kingdoms.
The Poppy War by R.F. Kuang
Interfering gods are the worse. The wooooorst. Anyone who has accidentally managed to stumble into three daedric quests in a row (I wish I was kidding) knows that the gods in Skyrim like to interfere, and so do the gods in R.F. Kuang’s The Poppy War. Rin is a war orphan, a no one parceled off to criminal guardians who want to use her to further their agenda. So when she aces the test that earns her a spot in the Empire’s most elite military school it’s a shock, and a blessing. Though blessing might be the wrong word. Because at Sinegard Rin not only finds herself surrounded by prejudice, she also discovers a strange, dangerous power inside herself. One gifted from gods who were supposed to be dead.
The Unspoken Name by A.K. Larkwood
If you keep up with what’s new in fantasy fiction, chances are you’ve heard of The Unspoken Name, the debut novel from A.K. Larkwood. Csorwe was raised to die. She has always been a sacrifice intended for the Unspoken. Until fate offers her the chance at a different, and if not better than at least longer, life in the guise of a powerful mage. One with zero concern for the fact that Csorwe was supposed to die on the mountain that day. Instead he offers her the chance to turn her back on her god and become his follower. To help him take on an entire empire, sword in hand. Unfortunately for Csorwe, gods don’t like being ignored. This book was practically made to appeal to people looking for books like Skyrim, and not just because the heroine is an orc (even though that’s awesome and honestly what other reason would you need to read this book?). You’ve got meddling gods, you’ve got powerful mages running around unsupervised stirring up trouble (basically my forever opinion of the mage’s college in Skyrim), and you’ve got a political coup in the offing. What more could you want?
The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch
This one is for you, my little little Thieves Guild supporting Nightingales in training. The Lies of Locke Lamora and the other equally intense books in the Gentleman Bastard series are the ultimate in high fantasy heist hijinks. They also score high marks for some gorgeous, lavish world building. The first book introduces us to the titular character Locke Lamora, a grubby orphan from one of the poorest corners of the island city of Camorr who grows up to become a masterful con artist. He leads a band of his fellow thieves and con artists known as the Gentleman Bastards, and listen, people, the things these boys get up to are ridiculous. They seriously need a babysitter. Fair warning, too, because this book starts as a fun, steal-from-the-rich adventure, but gets dark and serious faster than you might think.
Kings of the Wyld by Nicholas Eames
Crashing about the wilds with your mercenary mates? Honestly, what’s more Skyrim than that? Well, probably retiring to that house you built out in the country with the 900 wheels of cheese and all the dishes on the floor that you accidentally knocked off the table and now can’t navigate the game physics to put back. I’m not sure how many wheels of cheese Clay Cooper has, but he’s definitely in retirement when one of his ex-bandmates shows up asking for help. Clay’s crew used to be the most feared (and the scruffiest) in all of Heartwyld, and now his old mate needs help—his daughter is trapped behind the walls of a city under siege by a blood thirsty enemy, and he can’t rescue her alone. When packing for one last road trip with the gang, possibly to your death, be sure to pack plenty of cheese (though I prefer to collect cabbages, personally).
A Stranger in Olondria by Sofia Samatar
This one is for my “Read ALL the Books” Skyrim fans. There are hundreds of books in Skyrim and you can collect every single one of them if you so desire (and provided you don’t get caught—remember, in Skyrim it’s not stealing if you don’t get caught or try to sell your loot to a reputable vendor). Jevick would love it—he grew up hearing stories about another book-laden country, Olondia, where books aren’t a rare luxury the way they are in his homeland. Given the chance when his father dies, he finally makes his way to Olondria and a perfect, literary life. Until a festival gone wrong throws hitch in his plans, and he ends up haunted by the ghost of a young girl. As Jevick tries to rid himself of his new companion, the seemingly perfect country of Olondria is dragged into war as the conflict between two powerful religious cults comes to a head. Civil war with a touch of necromancy—somehow I think citizens of Skyrim can relate.
Silver in the Wood by Emily Tesh
There is a cave in Skyrim with a small forest inside of it. It’s beautiful, full of butterflies and torchbugs. It’s also full of freaking spriggans, but that doesn’t make it any less beautiful in the brief moments before you die (kidding. But seriously those spriggans, right?). Truth be told there are a number of caves containing small forests in Skyrim, all together they make up some of my favorite spots in the game, and this book reminds me of being inside one of those green hideaways. And hiding away is exactly what Tobias has been doing for many years, inside the Greenhollow wood to which he is tied. He has his little cottage, his cat, and his dryads, and honestly his life sounds like heaven to me. But one day, because in these sorts of stories there’s always a “one day” in which everything changes, Henry Silver arrives. Handsome Henry Silver, the new owner of Greenhollow Hall who is too curious about the wood and the wild man who lives there.
The Sorcerer of the Wildeeps by Kai Ashante Wilson
Demigods, sorcery, and a caravan traveling across a vast country side stalked by dark necromantic magic. I mean, how could I NOT include Wilson’s gorgeous The Sorcerer of the Wildeeps to this list of Skyrim readalikes. Plus bonus points for being a delightfully queer fantasy novel about two god-descended heroes, Demane—who they call the sorcerer—and his Captain as they travel about the wilds with their caravan. They have inherited by their ancestors with divine powers, and with the one “safe” road from north to south being plagued by terrifying black magics, it will take every give they have been given to keep their fellow travelers, and each other, from harm.
A Natural History of Dragons by Marie Brennan
It was surprisingly difficult to find a book where the dragons will actually eat you if given the chance. Apparently the human habit of pack bonding with every possible thing extends to fictional fire-breathing lizards. But the dragons in Skyrim don’t want to be your friends, so if like Lady Trent your penchant is the natural history of your chosen fantasy realm: beware of teeth. Yes this particular Skyrim read-alike is dedicated to my beloved Skyrim naturalists. You who sneak up on dragons, follow foxes, and have discovered the the fact that eating potions ingredients will tell you what they do. So munch down on some giant’s toe and settle in with the Brennan’s A Natural History of Dragons, and discover the evolution of legendary dragon naturalist, Isabella, Lady Trent, from bookish, convention-defying junior scholar to master adventurer and dragon expert.
The Grace of Kings by Ken Liu
Are we picking up on a theme of empty thrones and political strife? Thankfully neither of these are things are in short supply in high fantasy books. Ken Liu’s even comes with airships, which is honestly something Skyrim is critically lacking. What is the point of magic if I can’t get my butt on a magical zeppelin and fly from Riften to Marketh? What are the College Mages working on that is so much more important than air travel?! …Anyway. The emperor who once united the kingdoms of Dara is dying. After years under his reign the people have begun to chafe, and his counsellors are snapping up what power they can as the emperor’s health fails. As the synopsis warns us “Even the gods themselves are restless.” Add one charming but untrustworthy rogue, an ex-noble with a vengeance boner, season with the spirit of rebellion, and cook for an extended period of time in a political pressure cooker.
The Priory of the Orange Tree by Samantha Shannon
I’m not saying I included this book just because it’s nearly as long as Skyrim is wide. I mean it also has dragons, assassins, and a violent power struggle for control of a kingdom. Honestly why wouldn’t you read it? In the kingdom of Inys the House of Berethnet has ruled for thousands of years, but that great lineage hangs in the balance. Queen Sabran the Ninth is still unwed; there is no daughter to secure the throne and her enemies are closing in, blades in hand. Ead does everything that she can to protect her Queen, legal or not, surround Sabran with forbidden magic to keep the assassins at bay. Meanwhile, far across the sea, dragonrider Tané faces a choice that could undo everything she’s worked for her entire life, as in the shadow of the war that threatens East and West a darker, older evil rises.
Assassin’s Apprentice by Robin Hobb
I see you, Dark Brotherhood disciples. I wasn’t about to let this list go with out one assassin book and I have heard nothing but good things about Robin Hood’s Assassin’s Apprentice, which also happens to be part of an expansive series of fantasy novels. So go to town on this one! Fitz’s life as an outcast royal bastard may not have been a joy, alone in the world with only animals for companionship, but it might have been preferable to the life he discovers when he’s finally adopted into the royal household. Forced to give up his past, he’s thrust into a new world of learning, manners, subterfuge, and murder. There is an art to killing unseen, and leaving no trace.
Still up for more adventures? Not yet taken a career ending arrow to the need and been forced to retire to the deceptively unsafe position of city guard (also known as dragon chow)? Be sure to visit this list of epic fantasy series and stock up your TBR for those long, cold Skyrim winters.