With the holidays coming up, maybe you’re looking for the perfect nerdy Christmas gift for that special book-loving nerd in your life. Or maybe you are the bookworm, looking for the best new fantasy books of 2015 to add to your to-read list, and you want to make sure you haven’t missed any of this year’s releases.
We realize that there are a daunting number of books released in a year. So, to make things easier, we have sifted through the piles of new fantasy books released over this past year and compiled a list of the best. New and old authors, standalone books and serials, urban fantasy and epic, we’ve included something for absolutely everybody.
Here are the top 23 best new fantasy books of 2015 (in no particular order). Happy reading.
1. The Philosopher Kings by Jo Walton
The Philosopher Kings is the second book in the Thessaly trilogy (a continuation of The Just City) by Hugo and Nebula award-winning Jo Walton. Greek gods, robots, and time travel, oh my! It is set about 20 years after The Just City, which you would definitely need to read before attempting this book so you understand the premise. It’s worth the investment, though, as this is far from your average Greek mythology story. One wouldn’t expect three aforementioned elements to fit together, but Walton blends them masterfully in a fascinating and unique interpretation of philosophy, religion, and history. Her incarnations of the gods and their children are thoughtful and multi-faceted, and in this sequel, many of the seeds of thought planted in The Just City come to fruition. Read the full synopsis here.
2. Firefight by Brandon Sanderson
At this point, it just seems like everything Brandon Sanderson tobest uches is gold. The #1 New York Times bestselling author is very well-established on the fantasy scene by now, so it should come as no surprise that we’ve featured this sequel to the highly-acclaimed Steelheart (the first book of his new Reckoners series). The dystopian series is about Epics, a group of superhuman beings who were given powers by an event known as the Calamity and have subdued the rest of humanity. Reckoners are a group of ordinary humans who have devoted their lives to studying and defeating the Epics. It might all sounds like it could be very predictable, but if you think you’ve seen all the tricks Sanderson has up his sleeves, prepare to be shocked and amazed. Read the full synopsis here.
3. Fool’s Quest by Robin Hobb
Robin Hobb is another author that seems to have the formula for a bestselling fantasy novel down pat. She has been writing her internationally bestselling Realm of the Elderling novels since 1995, when Assassin’s Apprentice was published. Since then, she has published multiple series set in the same world. Fool’s Quest is the second book in her highly acclaimed The Fitz and the Fool series, which chronicles her beloved character FitzChivalry Farseer. If you’re not familiar with Fitz yet, take yourself all the way back to the beginning; I realize this is a considerable undertaking, but you’ll thank me later. Robin Hobb has crafted an enchanting world with unforgettable characters in a series of books that’s all but impossible to put down, which is why it is one of our top new fantasy books for 2015. Read the full synopsis here.
4. The Providence of Fire by Brian Staveley
The Providence of Fire is the much-anticipated second installment in Brian Staveley’s fantastic debut series, Chronicle of the Unhewn Throne. The first book, The Emperor’s Blades, was released last year and met with an extremely positive reception. The sequel does not disappoint; with a gripping plot, rich character development (including multiple strong, well-rounded female characters), and skillful worldbuilding, you won’t want to miss this one. If you haven’t already jumped on this particular bandwagon, pick up the first book and get yourself caught up before the release of the third and final, The Last Mortal Bond, early next year. Staveley is another new author that we’ll definitely be keeping our eye on. Read the full synopsis here.
5. Uprooted by Naomi Novik
Naomi Novik has taken a break from her highly popular Temeraire series to give us Uprooted, which is set in a fantasy world for which she drew inspiration from the Kingdom of Poland. If for no other reason, you should read this book because Warner Bros has bought the rights to the movie, which is to be produced by Ellen Degeneres. It certainly has its own merits, though; it is absolutely charming, with beautifully vivid descriptions and wonderful character dynamics; it has the aura of a fairytale with a darker twist. Uprooted is a standalone novel, so even if you haven’t read Novik’s other series, you should definitely consider adding this one to your to-read list. Read more here.
6. Half The World by Joe Abercrombie
New York Times bestseller Joe Abercrombie is another author that readers have come to expect great things from, and Half the World certainly does not disappoint. It’s the second book of his Shattered Sea series (the follow up to Half a King), which is targeted more towards a young adult audience than his previous series. Don’t let that deter you, though, as readers of all ages will find enjoyment in this book, and it lives up to the standard set by his previous works. He writes wonderfully varied and flawed characters, as well as fast-paced plot with heart-pounding battle scenes, which is why it’s one of the best new fantasy books of 2015. It’s also worth noting that the third book in the series, Half a War, was also released this year. Read more here.
7. The Autumn Republic by Brian McClellan
The Autumn Republic is the third and final book in Brian McClellan’s popular The Powder Mage series (excepting all of the short stories set in between the novels). The first book in the series, Promise of Blood, was his debut novel, and quite an impressive one; it was awarded the Morningstar Award for Best Fantasy Newcomer. Read the first two, if you haven’t already, before picking up this conclusion to the epic fantasy series. It’s always sad to see a great series come to a close, even with an ending as well-done as this one, but we can’t wait to see what else this author has in store.
8. The Skull Throne by Peter V. Brett
The Skull Throne is the fourth novel in the planned quintet The Demon Cycle from New York Times bestselling author Peter V. Brett (with several novellas in-between). The Demon Cycle is Brett’s debut series, which began in 2008 with The Warded Man, and has been a resounding success. The description sounds a bit overwhelming, but don’t be put off by that; there is a lot going on, but all of it well done. If you’ve read the previous books, you’ll have no trouble keeping up. The only bad news is that there tends to be a few years between the novels, so the final installment isn’t expected until 2018. That means you can take your time reading the first four, however, and hopefully the finale will be that much better for the extra time taken to write it.
9. The Liar’s Key by Mark Lawrence
The Liar’s Key is the second installment in The Red Queen’s War trilogy by Mark Lawrence. Lawrence is best known for his first (and only other) series, The Broken Empire trilogy. This trilogy, which begins with The Prince of Fools, is set in the same world, and although reading The Broken Empire is not a prerequisite, you won’t want to miss out on either of these wonderfully dark fantasy series. Lawrence is a masterful storyteller, and his novels are riveting and superbly crafted. The final book, The Wheel of Osheim, is due out sometime next year, which seems like an eternity after the massive cliffhanger this one ends on; consider yourself warned. But seriously, read it anyway, because we included it in our list of the best new books of June 2015, and it made the final cut to be one of the best new fantasy books of the year.
10. The Aeronaut’s Windlass by Jim Butcher
Jim Butcher, the #1 New York Times bestselling author of The Dresden Files and Codex Alera, debuts his brand new series The Cinder Spires with The Aeronaut’s Windlass. If you’re not already a fan of this prolific writer, this is the perfect opportunity to introduce yourself to his work; it easily lives up to the high standard set by his first two series. Steampunk is another subgenre that might seem overdone, but is fantastic if done right; and Jim Butcher does just that. It is fast-paced and imaginative, as readers have come to expect from this author; fans of The Dresden Files are guaranteed to love it.
11. Shadows of Self by Brandon Sanderson
Yes, Brandon Sanderson made our list twice. And rightfully so. Shadows of Self is the long-awaited fifth book in what is probably Sanderson’s most popular series (which is really saying something), Mistborn, and the second book in his planned Wax and Wayne trilogy. Magic meets technology in a western setting in this trilogy, set several hundred years after the original Mistborn novels, during a sort of industrial revolution. Shadows of Self has been four years in the making, but well worth the wait (hopefully we don’t have to wait quite so long for the next one). It is everything you’d expect from a Brandon Sanderson novel: captivating, full of richly developed characters, and just plain fun to read. (We also included it in our list of the best new sci-fi fantasy books of October 2015).
12. A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab
This is an author that’s best known for her young adult series, which she writes under the name Victoria Schwab; the pseudonym V.E. Schwab is meant to distinguish her books meant for a more adult audience, such as A Darker Shade of Magic. She has several ongoing series of both the young adult and adult varieties, and apparently transitions back and forth with ease (something not all YA authors can do) . We can’t wait to see where this particular series goes, as the debut is wonderfully imaginative, engrossing, and well-paced, with complex and relatable characters. Not to mention there are cross-dressing pirates.
13. The Mechanical by Ian Tregillis
There are no shortage of new books to read about artificially intelligent robots rebelling against their human creators, but Ian Tregellis approaches the subject in a refreshingly imaginative way with The Mechanical. For example, the protagonist in this story IS one of the automatons, Jax. Secondly, the book is set in an alternate 17th century rather than the future, with steampunk technology that is animated through magical means. Tregellis (previously known for his series The Milkweed Triptych) creates a truly absorbing character in Jax, explores important philosophical questions, and constantly keeps the reader guessing, all while setting up a fascinating alternate history. Do yourself a favor and read this before the second book, The Rising, comes out next month.
14. The Price of Valor by Django Wexler
The Price of Valor is the third novel in the planned five book series, The Shadow Campaign by Django Wexler. While the first book, The Thousand Names, focused mostly on military action, and the second book on political intrigue, this book is a fantastic combination of both elements. While epic fantasy series famously tend to lag somewhat in the middle, Wexler doesn’t let up on the action whatsoever and manages to keep the momentum going throughout this book. He has created interesting and strong female characters, especially in Raesinia; all his characters, in fact, are spectacularly developed and intriguing. All in all, there’s no reason not to pick up this series if you haven’t already – it is truly epic fantasy at its finest.
15. The Traitor Baru Cormorant by Seth Dickinson
The Traitor Baru Cormorant is an outstanding debut novel from rising fantasy author Seth Dickinson. His short fiction has appeared in many major science fiction and fantasy publications, but this is his first full-length novel, expanding upon his short story Beneath Ceaseless Skies, and you won’t want to miss it. Be prepared, though, as it is a dark, harrowing, and often heart-wrenching tale, if masterfully done. Fans of A Song of Ice and Fire should definitely give this novel a try; we promise you won’t be disappointed. There are many reasons to love this richly nuanced, often ruthless story, with a wonderfully tenacious (and queer) female protagonist at its center, which is one of the reasons we’re calling it one of the best fantasy books of 2015.
16. An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir
Here we have another extraordinary first novel in An Ember in the Ashes from brand-new fantasy author Sabaa Tahir, and one that is not to be overlooked. The book has received much acclaim since its release this past April, and for good reason. It is fast-paced and compelling, with characters developed in such a way as to make the reader genuinely invested in their fate. Although classified as a young adult novel, this book is enjoyable for all ages, so older adult readers should not skip this one; it is definitely a contender for best debut novel of the year. The sequel, A Torch Against the Night, is due out in August of next year.
17. Twelve Kings in Sharakhai by Bradley Beaulieu
There are so many epic fantasy novels on the market that often, they can begin to feel a bit formulaic; sometimes you come across one that really stands out, though, like Bradley Beaulieu’s Twelve Kings in Sharakhai. His worldbuilding skill shines in this diverse setting with multiple distinct cultures, and he employs multiple character point-of-views and flashbacks to build a captivating mystery as the protagonist, Çeda, searches for clues regarding her own heritage. While it seems Beaulieu got off to a shaky start with his Lays of Anuskaya series (although some readers greatly enjoyed it), it seems he has vastly improved with the onset of this new trilogy, the second installment of which is planned for next year.
18. The Invasion of the Tearling by Erika Johansen
The Invasion of the Tearling is the highly-awaited sequel to Erika Johansen’s debut novel, The Queen of the Tearling, and the second installment of the planned young adult fantasy trilogy. There have been talks of a movie produced by and starring Emma Watson, so if that happens, you’ll definitely want to read The Queen of the Tearling if you haven’t already. Even those who found themselves somewhat confused by the first book and did not leave it with a favorable impression seem to feel that everything really came together in the second. Many questions are clarified and the protagonist, Kelsea, shows immense character development and becomes much more likeable. So even if you aren’t crazy about the first installment, don’t write this series off just yet; the author really finds her legs with The Invasion of the Tearling, and we expect great things from the third, due out next year.
19. Knight’s Shadow by Sebastien de Castell
Sebastien de Castell follows up his impressive debut novel, Traitor’s Blade, with a sequel that is equally, if not more, remarkable. Knight’s Shadow is a delightful mix of swashbuckling amusement and grim, Game of Thrones-esque plot twists. It was technically first released in December 2014, but was then published by Jo Fletcher Books in 2015, so for our purposes we are including it in this year’s list, because we can do that. Castell has developed the spectacular world and memorable characters necessary to a standout fantasy series, and the fast-paced, gripping plot will keep readers guessing (and hooked) until the very end. He skillfully weaves the many plot threads in an emotionally complex tale that will leave readers eager for the third installment of this Greatcoats series, due out in spring of next year. For now, Knight’s Shadow is one of our favorite new release fantasy books of 2015.
20. Trigger Warning by Neil Gaiman
The latest anthology of short fiction from multiple award-winning, #1 New York Times bestselling author Neil Gaiman. There is something in this varied 24-piece collection for everyone; although there are a few recurring themes in some stories, for the most part they are unrelated and not all are as dark as the description suggests. There are also several familiar names, such as Sherlock Holmes and Doctor Who. While I generally prefer novel-length works, and this is no American Gods, Gaiman’s inventiveness and sheer talent make this well worth the read. Even if short stories aren’t your cup of tea, every reader can find something in this book to appeal to their particular tastes.
21. Vision in Silver by Anne Bishop
Amidst a sea of paranormal urban fantasy, Anne Bishop stands out as one of the best authors of the genre. Vision in Silver is the third book of her highly popular series The Others, the first of which, Written in Red, was published in 2013. Prior to that, she wrote her equally popular The Black Jewels serious, which consists of nine books total. While this genre can come off as a bit of a gimmicky fad popular in recent years, it can also be quite enthralling when done right, as Ms. Bishop does. Indeed, she seems to have a bit of a fanatical following, which is no surprise given the addictive quality of her books. There is rich worldbuilding, engaging characters, and just enough romance to add a heartwarming quality without overwhelming the reader or eclipsing the story.
22. The Fifth Season by N.K. Jemesin
Award-winning speculative fiction author N.K Jemesin already has a couple fantasy series under her belt, but The Fifth Season, the first novel of her new series The Broken Earth, may be her best work to date. It is set on a world, ironically named Stillness, wracked with disasters like earthquakes and volcanic eruptions, and plagued by periodic events of an apocalyptic magnitude. It follows three separate and equally fascinating characters, whose threads finally merge in a most unexpected manner. This novel is completely innovative, meticulously crafted, and darkly beautiful, clearly showing how much Jemesin has honed her writing skills since she first began. With an impressive 4.4 star rating on Goodreads, this is one you definitely don’t want to miss.
23. Magic Shifts by Ilona Andrews
#1 New York Times bestseller Ilona Andrews returns with the eighth installment of their widely popular Kate Daniels urban fantasy series. The husband-and-wife writing duo has co-authored two bestselling series, and works their magic again with Magic Shifts. Perhaps because the series is written by a married couple, they manage to write a committed, long-term relationship without it becoming boring; also, like Vision in Silver, the romance is present without being the central focus of the book. Also, each installment takes a different paranormal creature that we’re all familiar with and puts a unique spin on it; this book, for example, focuses on ghouls (which doesn’t sound terribly exciting, but coming from Andrews it is). If you’re not familiar with the series already, it’s recommended you start at the beginning so you know what’s going on; we promise it’s well worth your time.