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Book Riot Suggests 9 Books That Will Challenge Your Idea of Fantasy

Wednesday, August 5th, 2015 | Posted by John ONeill

Imaro-smallOver at book site Book Riot, Troy L. Wiggins has posted an excellent list of fantasy books that venture outside the ordinary.

Fantasy recommendation lists are characterized by their safety. Curious newcomers to the genre, having enjoyed their sample of escapist literature, request more stories, more worlds to lose themselves in. More often than not, though, the recommendations that they receive are the same few critically acclaimed authors… My belief is that Fantasy literature is the perfect lens for readers to challenge our ideas of humanity, violence, society, and power. My recommendations in this list (yes, another list!) will reflect that belief. Buckle up.

His list includes The Worldbreaker Saga by Kameron Hurley, A Stranger in Olondria by Sofia Samatar, Aliette De Bodard’s Obsidian & Blood, and the too-often overlooked Imaro series by Charles Saunders.

On the other side of the “often gets compared to Conan the Barbarian” coin we have Charles Saunders’ Imaro series, a groundbreaking series of sword and sorcery novels and short stories set on the fictional continent of Nyumbani, which serves as an alternate world representation of the African continent. Imaro is the very first representative work of a genre called “Sword and Soul,” which takes fantasy out of Medieval Europe and places it in Africa. Imaro is a one of a kind type of book series, and finishing it can lead you down a rabbit hole of Sword and Soul titles – the genre itself is experiencing something of a resurgence.

Read the complete list here.


  1. What a great list of challenging fantasies! I would toss Catherynne Valente’s Orphan’s Tales (In the Night Garden, In the Cities of Coin and Spice) on the list, along with Jay Lake’s The City Imperishable books (Trial of Flowers, Madness of Flowers).

    Comment by Eugene R. - August 5, 2015 11:11 pm

  2. Splendid additions Eugene!

    Comment by John ONeill - August 6, 2015 8:48 am

  3. For expanding your capacity to imagine a full range of fantasy worlds, my picks are Jack Vance’s “The Dying Earth”, Poul Anderson’s “Three Hearts and Three Lions”, Lord Dunsany’s “The King of Elfland’s Daughter”, Poul Anderson’s “The Broken Sword” and Margaret St. Clair’s “The Shadow People”.

    Comment by jeffro - August 6, 2015 1:52 pm

  4. […] My SFF recommendation list, “9 Diverse Fantasy Books That Will Challenge Your Idea of Fantasy Fiction,” originally published over at Book Riot, was re-posted by Black Gate Magazine. […]

    Pingback by Hot Links: A Weekly Round-Up of SFF Articles and Fiction | Troy L. Wiggins - August 7, 2015 1:08 pm

  5. I’d add Italo Calvino’s Invisible Cities and The Castle of Crossed Destinies, and Angelica Gorodischer’s Kalpa Imperial. Looking outside the Anglophone fantasy lineage turns up some strange and intriguing approaches.

    Comment by Sarah Avery - August 7, 2015 3:29 pm

  6. Or looking right alongside the Anglophone tradition, like Yves Meynard’s The Book of Knights or Chrysanthe.

    Comment by Eugene R. - August 7, 2015 6:32 pm

  7. Ooh, those are ones I haven’t heard of. Thanks!

    Comment by Sarah Avery - August 8, 2015 1:00 am

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