Are you a series or standalone reader? I have a love of all, but I will admit that when I have a hankering for fantasy books it can be tricky to find something to read that doesn’t already have three sequels and a prequel under its belt. If you’re like me, constantly seeking standalone fantasy books to dive into, we’ve compiled a list of 10 tales for you to check out. Grab your sword and wand, and let’s get started!
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10. Stardust by Neil Gaiman
Neil Gaiman is an author who treads the line between fantasy and horror on the regular. Some of his darker works like Coraline, The Graveyard Book and even American Gods sort of float somewhere between the two genres. However with Stardust Gaiman delivers a pure standalone fantasy that’s incredibly enjoyable. Tristan Thorn goes looking for a falling star one night in order to impress a girl. However this isn’t your average fiery ball of light, and Tristan soon finds himself dragged into an adventure that he never anticipated with the star, a young woman who will open his eyes to a new way of seeing life.
9. Piranesi by Susanna Clarke
The latest story from Susanna Clarke, who you may know from the massive tome Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell (another standalone fantasy story worth checking out), Piranesi takes a long look at solitude and curiosity. Piranesi does not know where he came from, only that he lives to explore his massive house, a never-ending labyrinth of hallways. It’s through his exploration of the house, and providing help to a mysterious man known only as The Other that he discovers a truth he never could have imagined. Full of prose and beautiful descriptions, this is the perfect novel for anyone seeking an entirely new world. One of those standalone fantasy books I just could not put down.
8. Among the Beasts & Briars by Ashley Poston
Looking for some forest and nature filled standalone fantasy book? Look no further. Daughter of the Royal Gardener to the kingdom of Aloriya, Cerys has quite the special ability. We’ll just call it a supercharged green thumb. During the new queen’s coronation, an attack sends Cerys fleeing into the woods at the edge of the kingdom. Along with her semi-pet fox and a protective bear, she needs to face the secrets of Aloriya along with her own past, all while trying to save her home.
7. The Eyes of the Dragon by Stephen King
What’s that? Stephen King wrote a standalone fantasy novel? I know, I was surprised too, but here we are. Way back in 1993, King deviated from his usual horror fare and published this epic fantasy novel set in a medieval type of universe, but featuring a villain named Flagg who’s featured in several of his other works in some way shape or form (normally as a sort of personification of evil). If you’re not a horror reader by nature, and you’re not ready to jump into the Dark Tower series, which he considers to be one of his best works, this could be a great way to get a little King on your reading list.
6. The Princess Bride by William Goldman
A standalone fantasy list that doesn’t include The Princess Bride? Inconceivable! Sorry, had to get it out of the way. But in all seriousness, this story is just the best kind of classic fairytale. If you haven’t seen the wildly popular film from 1987 I’m shocked, and you need to watch it immediately. However, don’t discount the source material. Goldman’s novel is tons of fun and has everything I love about older fantasy stories: Fencing, fighting, torture, revenge, giants, monsters, chases, escapes, true love, miracles… ok I’m done now.
5. Red Hood by Elana K. Arnold
I’ve always loved the story of Little Red Riding Hood. It’s a story that evokes tons of imagery for me. I’m also all about wolves in media, werewolves or otherwise. They’re beautiful and fascinating creatures. Red Hood combines the perfect elements of each, for a magical standalone fantasy novel, set in a real world. On the night of her Homecoming, Bisou is chased by a wolf through the woods. She defends herself, and discovers more about her own story than she imagined possible. Look out for the Red Riding Hood references! It’s one of those standalone fantasy books you need to check out.
4. Burn by Patrick Ness
An alternate universe where people work with dragons? Yes please. What starts out as a business arrangement quickly turns into something much more complicated, and Sarah Dewhurst is drawn into a prophecy with dragon Kazimir, who knows a lot more than he’s letting on. This is such an original concept, in true Patrick Ness fashion (think A Monster Calls and Release). As a fan of fantasy stories that take place in an alternate reality that’s still technically Earth, I’m all over it.
3. Nimona by Noelle Stevenson
Fantasy is all about descriptions and visuals, so what better way to show them off than in graphic novel form? Noelle Stevenson took her web comic and turned it into a bound and beautifully illustrated book for us to enjoy. Shapeshifter Nimona teams up with Lord Ballister Blackheart – the most wonderful villain name ever – to cause a little trouble. Chaos ensues of course, but in the best possible way. This one’s getting a fun animated film adaptation, set for release in 2022.
2. Cemetery Boys by Aiden Thomas
Aiden Thamas’ debut novel explores family ties, gender identity and latin culture. Yadriel is trans, and determined to prove his true gender to his family and be a true brujo. He summons a ghost, who he’s then unable to get rid of. He reluctantly agrees to help Julian – the ghost – to help solve the puzzle of how he died. Along the way they discover more about themselves and each other, and form a bond that neither of them expected. Cemetery Boys is full of original plot and heartwarming narrative, and it’s the perfect pick for standalone fantasy books seekers.
1. The Forbidden Wish by Jessica Khoury
There was bound to be at least one fairytale retelling on this list – ok fine there’s more than one. Something about the nostalgia they produce for us makes them all the more enjoyable. Maybe it’s just me, but an Aladdin retelling is not something that I come across on the regular. In this updated tale, the “street rat” rubs the lamp, releasing a jinni named Zahra. A burgeoning romance draws them together, but Zahra will have to choose between her feelings and the possibility of her freedom from the lamp. Such a fun read and so sweet for anyone looking for a fresh take on the legend.
Bonus – These Violent Delights by Chloe Gong
Ok, so this is a tiny bit of a cheat because the author has confirmed that a sequel is being worked on, but it was great so I’m giving it a little shout out here since the sequel won’t be released for some time. Shakespeare retellings are a bit of a soft spot for me.
I’m quite a fan of the original bard man, and I love reading these types of stories inspired by his work and finding little Easter eggs and references that I can identify with. Without giving too much away, this is a re telling of Romeo and Juliet set in 1920s Shanghai. There are gang rivalries, political tensions, romance and a monster – and they’re all great. If you’re looking for a little more info, check out this readers slightly more spoiler-y review here.
Finding standalone fantasy books to read can be tricky – but not impossible! Hopefully you’ve discovered some new ones to check out, or to add to your TBR. New, fantastical worlds await around every corner. Enjoy!
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