The world of fantasy literature is vast and diverse, filled with countless amazing stories that often go unnoticed by the mainstream audience. In this article, we will explore 10 of the best underrated fantasy books that deserve your attention, offering fresh perspectives and exciting new worlds to explore. So, let’s dive in and discover these hidden gems that are waiting to be read and cherished.
Why These Underrated Fantasy Books Deserve Your Attention
Before we present our top picks, it’s important to understand the value of exploring underrated fantasy books and how they can enrich your reading experience. In the following sections, we will discuss the importance of diverse reading in the fantasy genre and how underrated books can provide unique insights and storytelling.
The Importance of Diverse Reading in the Fantasy Genre
For many readers, the fantasy genre is an escape into magical worlds and thrilling adventures, filled with diverse characters and thought-provoking themes. However, the stories that often gain mainstream attention hardly represent the full scope of the genre. Delving into underrated books exposes readers to a broader variety of cultures, settings, and styles, which can enhance their appreciation of the genre and its creative possibilities.
For instance, you might discover books that draw inspiration from non-Western cultures, such as African, Asian, or Middle Eastern folklore. These stories can offer a refreshing change from the typical medieval European-inspired settings that dominate the genre. They can also introduce readers to new mythologies, creatures, and magic systems that they might not have encountered before.
Moreover, reading lesser-known works can also help to challenge and expand our understanding of what a good fantasy story can be. By stepping outside of our comfort zones and exploring the works of authors with different perspectives and backgrounds, we can grow as readers and enrich our own creative thinking.
How Underrated Books Can Offer Fresh Perspectives
Because underrated books often fly under the radar, they are free from the constraints of mainstream publishing trends and popular expectations. This means that such books are more likely to take risks and explore unconventional themes, leading to more unique and original stories that can offer fresh perspectives and challenge traditional genre conventions.
For example, you might come across books that subvert common fantasy tropes, such as the chosen one narrative or the epic battle between good and evil. Instead, they might focus on character-driven stories, exploring complex themes such as identity, trauma, or social justice. These books can offer a more nuanced and mature take on the genre, appealing to readers who crave more than just escapism.
Furthermore, underrated authors are often driven by a deep passion for their craft, spending years perfecting their worlds, characters, and narratives. As a result, these books can provide readers with captivating stories that showcase the author’s devotion and love for the genre, making for an unforgettable reading experience.
In conclusion, exploring underrated fantasy books can be a rewarding and enriching experience for readers who seek diversity, originality, and passion in their reading. By giving these books a chance, you might discover hidden gems that resonate with you on a deeper level and expand your horizons as a reader and a fan of the genre.
The Criteria for Choosing the Best Underrated Fantasy Books
In order to compile this list, we have taken into consideration several criteria that characterize exceptional fantasy stories. These criteria include unique world-building and magic systems, compelling characters and relationships, and engaging and unpredictable plots.
Unique World-Building and Magic Systems
An unforgettable fantasy book should transport readers to an imaginative and well-crafted world, one that is distinct and rich in detail. This means that the world-building should offer something new and original, allowing readers to explore and discover its intricacies along with the story’s characters. For example, consider a world where magic is not just a tool, but a way of life. Perhaps the magic system is based on the elements, with each person having a unique affinity for one of them. Or maybe the magic is tied to the natural world, with certain plants or animals possessing magical properties. The magic system should be inventive and coherent, adding depth and complexity to the world and its inhabitants.
Take, for instance, the world of “The Name of the Wind” by Patrick Rothfuss. The magic in this world is based on a system of words and names that hold immense power. The main character, Kvothe, spends years learning the intricacies of this magic system and using it to achieve his goals.
Compelling Characters and Relationships
Characterization is the cornerstone of any great book, and underrated fantasy novels should feature well-developed, multi-dimensional characters that readers can connect with and root for. Additionally, the relationships among characters, whether they be friendships, romances, or rivalries, should be authentic and emotionally resonant, driving the story forward and adding depth to the narrative.
Consider the character of Vin from Brandon Sanderson’s “Mistborn” series. Vin is a complex character with a troubled past, and her relationships with other characters, particularly her mentor Kelsier and her love interest Elend, are integral to the story’s development. Watching these relationships evolve over the course of the series adds an emotional weight to the story that makes it all the more compelling.
Engaging and Unpredictable Plots
An engaging plot is essential to maintain the reader’s interest throughout a fantasy novel. The best underrated books should feature storylines that are both intricate and compelling, filled with twists and turns that keep readers guessing until the very end. Furthermore, the plot should have a sense of momentum and flow, ensuring that every scene advances the narrative and contributes to the story’s overall impact.
One example of an engaging and unpredictable plot can be found in “The Lies of Locke Lamora” by Scott Lynch. The story follows a group of thieves led by the titular Locke Lamora as they navigate a complex web of political intrigue and criminal underworld machinations. The plot is full of twists and turns, with unexpected betrayals and alliances keeping readers on the edge of their seats until the very end.
In conclusion, the best underrated fantasy books are those that offer unique world-building and magic systems, compelling characters and relationships, and engaging and unpredictable plots. By taking these criteria into consideration, readers can discover hidden gems that they might have otherwise overlooked.
The Top 10 Underrated Fantasy Books
With those criteria in mind, we present our list of the top 10 underrated fantasy books that you should read. Since these books may not have achieved mainstream success, you may not have heard of them – but we’re confident they will not disappoint. So, without further ado, here are our picks:
The Ninth Rain by Jen Williams
The Ninth Rain is the first installment in the Winnowing Flame Trilogy, set in an imaginative world filled with dark magic and mysterious entities. With unforgettable characters and a unique blend of horror and fantasy elements, this book stands out as an electrifying read that will leave you breathless.
Foundryside by Robert Jackson Bennett
Foundryside is an inventive and thrilling fantasy novel that combines elements of heist stories, industrial revolution settings, and magical intrigue. Set in a world where magic is harnessed through technology, the book’s unique premise, rich world-building, and compelling characters make it a must-read for fans of the genre.
The Wolf of Oren-Yaro by K.S. Villoso
Centered around a complex and deeply flawed protagonist, The Wolf of Oren-Yaro tells the story of a queen on a journey to save her fractured kingdom. Blending political intrigue, character development, and rich world-building, Villoso’s stunning debut is a welcome addition to the world of epic fantasy.
The City of Brass by S.A. Chakraborty
Set in a richly-detailed world inspired by Middle Eastern mythology, The City of Brass follows the story of a young con artist as she discovers her true heritage and is thrust into a dangerous world of politics and magic. With its vivid world-building, endearing characters, and a thrilling plot, this novel is sure to captivate readers who enjoy immersive and atmospheric stories.
The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet by Becky Chambers
Blending science fiction and fantasy elements, The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet explores themes of community, identity, and acceptance as it follows a captivating and diverse cast of space adventurers. Chambers’ character-driven narrative is both engaging and thought-provoking, making this book a must-read for fans of genre-blurring stories.
The Rage of Dragons by Evan Winter
Inspired by African mythology and set in a brutal, war-torn world, The Rage of Dragons follows a lowly soldier’s quest for vengeance and power. Filled with well-crafted action scenes, compelling characters, and a thrilling plot, this military fantasy novel is a true page-turner.
Kings of the Wyld by Nicholas Eames
A humorous and action-packed adventure, Kings of the Wyld chronicles the reunion of a legendary band of mercenaries as they attempt to save one of their own. With its witty dialogue, memorable characters, and unexpected twists, this book is a fun and captivating read for fantasy and adventure fans alike.
The Traitor Baru Cormorant by Seth Dickinson
The Traitor Baru Cormorant is an intense and complex novel that offers a fresh take on the fantasy genre, focusing on political intrigue, strategic warfare, and the exploration of personal identity in the face of adversity. Dickinson’s compelling narrative and masterful prose provide a thrilling and thought-provoking experience for readers seeking something different in their fantasy reads.
The Golem and the Jinni by Helene Wecker
Set in turn-of-the-century New York City, The Golem and the Jinni is a historical fantasy novel that combines elements of Jewish and Arabic folklore. The book explores themes of identity, freedom, and acceptance as its two magical protagonists navigate life in a world where they don’t belong. Wecker’s captivating storytelling and rich prose make this an unforgettable read.
The Library at Mount Char by Scott Hawkins
Darkly imaginative and full of twists, The Library at Mount Char is a blend of horror, fantasy, and science-fiction. As the story follows a group of former students of an enigmatic figure, the reader is plunged into a world of gods, cosmic libraries, and otherworldly powers. This genre-bending novel is sure to leave a lasting impression on those who dare to read it.
There you have it – our list of the top 10 underrated fantasy books that you should read now. Each of these fantastic stories offers something unique and engaging, providing readers with fresh and exciting perspectives on the genre. So, don’t hesitate to pick up one (or all) of these underrated gems and discover the magic they have to offer!
What are the most underrated fantasy books?
R. Scott Bakker’s The Darkness That Comes Before, The Wars of Light and Shadow by Janny Wurts, and The Godblind trilogy by Anna Stephens are all very underrated fantasy books.
If these books are good, why are they underrated?
If the author has not yet received the credit they deserve, it can be hard to publish novels and get a good readership. If you publish a great novel at the same time as a best-seller, your work can be overshadowed and if you’re a new author, you may not have the publicity needed to get the readers to buy your book.