Love a side of swords with your fantasy? Enter swashbuckling fantasy! Find some great recs here.
What Even is Swashbuckling Fantasy?
Swashbuckling fiction has been around for a LONG time. It’s all about the fight of good versus evil, the hero’s journey, coming of age, and yes, sometimes pirates. This sub-genre has evolved a lot but its core has stayed the same, with the action usually revolving around sword-fighting. And while the term “swashbuckling” may indeed make you think of sailors and pirates, the term now mainly refers to any hero who lived (and sometimes died) by the sword.
The early books in this swashbuckling fiction genre are books we know and love such as The Three Musketeers by Alexandre Dumas, Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson, and The Princess Bride by William Goldman.
As we see with The Princess Bride, the genre has since evolved to include the magic and mystery we love today — enter swashbuckling fantasy! These are the books I will be focusing on in this list. With daring adventures, magic, and yes, also sword-fighting, these books are page-turners you need to add to your fantasy TBR.
13 Swashbuckling Fantasy Books
On Stranger Tides by Tim Powers
The inspiration for the Pirates of the Caribbean movies, this book follows a young man named John who is trying to find his uncle who he believes is stealing from the daily. On the way, he meets a young woman named Elizabeth who is worried that her father is dabbling in dark magic. Soon however their ship is captured by Pirates, and John and Elizabeth do what they must to survive…but something even more sinister than Pirates is lurking in the shadows.
We Hunt The Flame by Hafsah Faizal
Zafaria is on the hunt. She is skilled, but this might be her most dangerous hunt yet. Her target? Nasir, the prince of death. We follow Zafaria as she disguises herself a boy and travels across a magical and dangerous forest, seeking a magical item that just might help her in her quest.
The Name of The Wind by Patrick Rothfuss
The Name of The Wind tells the story of a young orphan named Kovthe who is going to fight tooth and nail to become the best wizard the world has seen. We follow his journey from the terrors of the orphanage he grew up in, and towards the desperate attempts to get into a renowned school of magic. Filled to the brim with adventure and duels, this book is a masterpiece — and so is its sequel.
The Scarlet Rose by Patricia Lyfoung
The first is a young adult graphic novel series, The Scarlet Rose is about a young woman named Maud who will stop at nothing to avenger her father. But in order to avenge him, she first needs to find his killer. In the meantime, she must fight with pirates and even become one herself!
This is a long series with a lot to discover — swashbuckling adventure for everyone!
The Faceless Old Woman Who Secretly Lives In Your Home by Joseph Fink & Jeffrey Cranor
The Faceless Old Woman has an interesting story to tell. While planted in the world of the mysterious town of NightVale, the faceless old woman reflects on how she got here. She tells the tale of how the death of her father sent her on a lifelong quest for vengeance, and piracy, and leads towards the ultimate betrayal. A standalone that will leave you reeling, this is my favorite swashbuckling adventure to come out in 2020.
The Mermaid, The Witch, and The Sea by Maggie Tokuda-Hall
Flora is a young girl in over her head. In order to survive, and gain respect in a world that seems pitted against her, she must take on the role of feared Pirate Floran. Lady Evelyn Hasegawa is dreading her arranged marriage, but when the plan is interrupted by pirates, she forms an unlikely bond with Floran, the pirate captain. An incredible story of friendship, the high seas, and yes…even Mermaids.
One Piece by Eiichiro Oda, Translated by Andy Nakatani
One Piece is a swashbuckling manga! Set in Japan, we follow Monkey D Luffy as he tries to achieve his life goal of becoming a pirate! There’s only one problem: he doesn’t know how to swim, nor can he ever learn, thanks to the source of his magic powers. This is a fun fast-paced series that is easy to fall in love with.
Magic of Blood and Sea by Cassandra Rose Clarke
There’s one thing a pirate never should do: abandon ship. And that’s just what Ananna does when her parents decide to marry her off to a different pirate clan. However, her actions have consequences, and her would-be husband sends assassins after her. Now she must do battle on the high seas to fight for the right to captain her own ship and marry who she wants.
This is the first in a thrilling duology.
Throne of the Crescent Moon by Saladin Ahmed
A ghul hunter, a holy warrior, and a woman with a magical gift must team up to take down a mysterious thief known only as The Falcon Prince. The thief is spreading bodies and rebellion across the kingdom. They may each have their own reasons for wanting him dead, but they all have come together for their shared goal.
This is the first in a planned trilogy.
Mad Kestrel by Misty Massey
Kestral lives in a world is dangerous for those born with magic powers. Kestrel has so far been able to hide her magic powers and herself. Luckily for her, she lives at sea where magic is much less prominent. However, it’s only a matter of time before she and her magic are discovered. This book is a page-turner with magic, mystery, and the open seas. The first book of a duology, Mad Kestrel has plenty of adventure!
Scavenge The Stars by Tara Sim
This YA fantasy follows young Amaya who is working on a debtors ship. One day she rescues a mysterious stranger, and might just find a path so something she’s always wanted — revenge. But, as Amaya knows well, everything has a cost.
A fantasy retelling of The Count Of Monte Cristo, Scavenge the Stars is the first in a duology.
Traitor’s Blade by Sebastien De Castell
Falcio is a member of the Greatcoats, a traveling guard unit that are sworn to uphold the law and protect the throne. Except that the Greatcoats have failed at their job, and a mad duke now sits on the throne. Set to the backdrop of upheaval and the collapse of a kingdom, Flacio must honor his vow. He must reunite the Greatcoats.
This is the first in a series of a four.
Lily the Thief by Janne Kukkonen
Lily dreams of becoming a master thief one day. Unfortunately, her mentor doesn’t seem to think her capable of much more than small jobs and general pickpocketing. But, on one of these boring missions, Lily uncovers a plot that could send everything she knows crashing down. A beautiful middle grade graphic novel for the young swashbuckler in your life.
Want even more great recommendations?
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