I want to start doing more recommendation posts, so I thought that this was a good place to start! I am including two sci-fi/dystopian books on this list because it was originally going to be “Standalone Sci-fi & Fantasy Recommendations”, but there are two sci-fi books among ten fantasy books! Sci-fi with be marked with a *!
Warbreaker by Brandon Sanderson
After being carefree her whole life, Siri is suddenly sent to marry the God King in order to fulfill her country’s treaty instead of her sister Vivenna, who has been trained since birth for this purpose. Vivenna follows Siri to God King’s city in order to try and save her from her fate.
As of right now, this book is a standalone (though there is probably going to be a sequel in the future) and it is a self-contained story. I think the magic in this book is so cool and I really enjoyed all of the characters that we get to follow. There isn’t a ton of action in this book, which is actually why I liked it so much!
Book of a Thousand Days by Shannon Hale
Dashti gets locked in a tower with her Lady Saren for seven years because of Saren’s refusal to marry a man she hated. As Dashti journals her way through their imprisonment, the two must face the trials of living in the tower, as well as Saren’s suitors showing up outside of the tower.
I adore this book. It is apparently a retelling of a Grimm fairytale, though I don’t know which one, but it set in fictional Mongolia. The fantasy elements are kind of minimal, but I love the story, the characters, and the themes of this book.
Dry by Neal & Jarrod Shusterman*
After the water runs out in California, Alyssa must try to find water and safety for herself and her brother.
This book is so intense! I think this is technically considered a dystopian, but the scary thing is that it feels like the scenario could happen in the very near future. It follows a group of teens over a few days and I know that type of story isn’t for everyone, but I think it is such an interesting look at the nature of people and how they react in disasters. Keep some water nearby for this one!
The Priory of the Orange Tree by Samantha Shannon
As Ead infiltrates the Berethnet court in order to protect heirless Queen Sabran, a slumbering darkness begins to rise again.
That description is quite simplified because there is a lot going on in this book. It covers a wide expanse of places and follows multiple characters. I definitely was unsure of this book when I started it, but now I hold it very fondly in my heart. There is a great F/F romance in this that doesn’t take over the story at all and there are dragons. What more could I want? (the answer is nothing)
The Darkest Part of the Forest by Holly Black
Twins Hazel and Ben live in a town that borders the fae lands and strange things always happen there. There is a boy with horns who has been asleep in a glass casket in the forest for many years, until suddenly, he wakes up.
I love fae stories and this one is no exception! There are lots of different fae creatures in this book and the creepy forest vibes are also strong in this book. There are two really good romances in this book as well.
Sorcery of Thorns by Margaret Rogerson
Elisabeth has dreamed of being a warden of a Great Library who takes care of the magical books there, until she is framed for releasing one of the books that became an enormous monster. She must then flee and try to figure out who wants her framed and why.
I was drawn to this book because of the idea of a magical library, but I think it’s actually all the other elements of the book that I enjoyed more! Elisabeth learns a lot about herself and the world over the course of this book and I really enjoyed watching her uncover nefarious plots. I loved the trio of characters we follow in this book.
How We Became Wicked by Alexander Yates*
(NOTE: this book has to do with a plague of sorts, so especially now with COVID-19, skip past this if you do not want to hear about anything plague-related)
After the Singers came, the infected Wicked run rampant all over the world trying to eat other people. Groups of people live in glass communities to stay safe from the Singers and the Wicked, while the rare Vexed is immune to the Singers infection.
This book follows two points of view and it was so much fun to try to figure out how they connect. One follows a girl in a sheltered glass community and the other follows a girl living on an island with her family. This was just a fun book, as weird as that is to say because it definitely contains some heavy topics.
An Enchantment of Ravens by Margaret Rogerson
After painting human sorrow in a Fae princes eye, Isobel must travel with him to the Fae lands in order to answer for her crimes.
This book was honestly just a delight to read. It is fun, pretty, fast, and charming. It has seasonal fae courts, which I really like, and the fae in this story can’t make anything, so they have to rely on humans, which is a cool twist. I thought the romance was cute and sweet as well!
Heartless by Marissa Meyer
All Catherine wants is to open up a bake shop, even if she is the most desired girl in the land and is the favorite of the King of Hearts. When she meets Jest, she decides that she wants to do what makes her happy, not what everyone else wants for her.
This is an origin story for the Queen of Hearts from Alice in Wonderland. It was so interesting to see Cath at the beginning, but knowing that somewhere along the way, she becomes the Queen of Hearts. It has the same kind of crazy magic that is in Alice in Wonderland. I thought this was super fun, even if it did hurt me.
House of Salt and Sorrows by Erin A. Craig
Annaleigh lives in manor by the sea with her sister, except her sisters keep dying. Now that four have passed, she thinks their deaths may not be accidental. She and her remaining sister find a door that leads to other lands where each night a ball is taking place. They try to let go of their grief by going to these balls every night, even as Annaleigh experiences visions that make her suspicious.
This is a retelling of the Twelve Dancing Princesses, which I don’t know much about. I picked this book up on a whim (and the cover) and it blew me away! The story was so interesting and suspenseful. It was definitely scarier than the books I normally read, but it added to the intense atmosphere of this book.
Romanov by Nadine Brandes
Anastasia is given a secret magical relic to keep and use when the time is right, even when her family is being hunted by the Bolsheviks. In their imprisonment, she befriends Zash, one of her guards and thinks that he can help her, until he is part of the firing squad ordered to kill her and her family.
This is a magical alternate history of Anastasia and the Romanov family. The first half of the book is mostly historical (and the author addresses the things that aren’t accurate at the end of the book), while the second half deals with magic more. The content of this book is really heavy, so it definitely an emotional ride, but I really liked the themes it discussed. There is a lot of emphasis on the struggle between revenge and doing the right thing. The magic in this book felt like it was just there to further the story, but I think the story is worth it.
Girls Made of Snow and Glass by Melissa Bashardoust
Lynet finds out that her father had her created out of snow, while her stepmother Mina has a glass heart. Following Lynet in the present and Mina in the past, both girls struggle with what makes them different, as well as their complicated relationship.
This is yet another retelling, this time of Snow White. I absolutely love the exploration of Mina and Lynet’s relationship and how they take control of their lives and the plans men had made for them. The story just felt so original, especially for being a retelling, and the world and magic were so cool!
What are some of your favorite standalone fantasy (or sci-fi) books?