Julia’s Favourite Self Published Fantasy Books – Update 1
In September 2020 I posted the last bit of my big list of self published fantasy books and, since it is now April, I have quite a few titles to add! So without further ado, here’s 14 highly recommended adventures, from classic to whimsical and grimdark!
I’ll start off with J.A. Andrews
Both of these series, are loosely connected. Keeper Chronicles was published first, and is already finished. Keeper Origins starts the ongoing new series, which is a prequel series. You can really start with either series, as you’ll find connections either way, but they are like nice Easter eggs, and it’s not necessary to understand the story fully.
A Threat of Shadows, the first book of the Keeper Chronicles, was the author’s debut. While already being a solid and fun read, if you read on you can really see Andrews’ skills grow with each new instalment. By the time I made it to her fourth book “Dragon’s Reach”, she had boldly leaped from my authors I enjoy shelf to my very favourites!
All her books are definitely written for an adult audience, and don’t shy away from death or heavier content. However, they don’t contain graphic violence or sex, and instead they focus on how characters deal with what cards life deals them. This especially reminds me of the older classics, which also weren’t nearly as graphic as books these days. I greatly enjoyed the more modern style and tone! The first book is still a bit trope heavy, but that aspect goes down throughout the series. The later books still have a similar feel to them, but at the same time read new and fresh. And I do love a story that doesn’t feel like fluff, but has some depth and character growth in it, and yet still gives me a break from all the grimdark I also tend to devour!
Bonus: Both are available as utterly fantastic audiobooks! The Whole Keeper Chronicles is a whooping 46 hours and 32 minutes, narrated by the fabulous Tim Gerard Reynolds. Dragon’s Reach on it’s own is 22 hours and 27 minutes, and read by Kate Reading, my favourite female narrator out there…
Justin Lee Anderson
These two books are as different as can be, and yet I devoured them both.
The Lost War is more the classical style of fantasy. It feels a bit like a good D&D adventure, and had me hooked early on! While it did feel a bit generic at first, there’s plenty of twists and turns – some of them really completely unexpected to more than make up for the start. I liked the characters’ humour, and was happy to accompany them on their quest! Another big plus for me was how much magic there was in the world, as I’ve read a lot of low magic book recently. I would not put this in the grimdark section at all, but there is quite a bit of swearing!
Carpet Diem is a whole different sort of book , which I would compare to Good Omens. It is Urban Fantasy, with plenty of silliness and fun! The main character is a grumpy recluse who gets caught up in the war of good and evil. Whoever wins will decide the fate of our world – and all of that just because he has a damn old rug in his house, that is the object of an ancient bet… A lot of swearing, and some lewd comments in here too, but I actually laughed so hard I teared up at times. I especially appreciated the older main characters in here instead of all these young chosen ones hoping around in their teenage glory!
Both are also available as audiobooks, which I would also recommend!
I read Shadow of a Dead God for this year’s SPFBO, and it was so damn much fun! It felt like Urban Fantasy, but instead of today’s world it is set in a medieval-ish town full of magic!
The mix of mystery, sassy dialogue and a lot of power being thrown about was just a joy to read. While it could have been a bit deeper at times, I was giggling away and on the edge of my seat at other times, so I really didn’t mind the quick pace! This is one of these books you can just inhale and then stare at and wonder how on earth you’ve already run out of pages…
(BTW, it has since gotten a new cover, but I prefer this one, and also think the new one is a bit spoiler-ish, that’s why I chose to go with the old cover, which I for one really love!)
Yet another one with a more classical feel to it. In Code of the Communer I especially enjoyed how much actual fantasy and magic was in there, and especially how well done the world building was! The main character is part of a tribe that really lives with nature, and the whole aspect of adapting to seasons and survival in the wild.
So if you’re in the mood to explore a deep and three dimensional world with plenty of fantastical elements, look no further!
Rachel Emma Shaw
Last Memoria isn’t a perfect book, but one I nevertheless enjoyed all the way through, and am already actively looking forward to a sequel!
I liked the idea of memory stealing, and exploring how much of who we are is made up of our memories and how we might change when some of them go missing. The main characters were written well enough for me to care about what would happen next, even when at times I personally would have wanted a tiny bit more depth to them. Even though the plot was at times a bit meandering, there was enough mystery at the heart of the story to always keep me hooked anyway. A few nice twists rounded this one off nicely!
I discovered Amanda DeWees and Sybil Ingram, the main protagonist of this series, in a Christmas fantasy anthology. And I was in love with the whole tone and voice right away! So off I went and bought the first book in the series right away, before I even finished the whole short story.
This feels like a Jane Austen novel with added in ghosts and some mysteries – and I adore it. Sybil is witty and sassy, and very sure of herself, and yet somehow manages to not feel arrogant. I enjoyed spending time with her so very much, and was very well entertained all the way through! This series definitely is going on my comfort read pile for those days when you just need something light and funny.
This one is also available as very entertaining audiobook!
Queens of the Wyrd is a joy to read. It is fast paced, full of action, dotted with witty banter and has a group of middle-aged women as main characters. Midgard is a world I always loved, and seeing it from a new set of eyes was both refreshing and made me feel like home!
Shieldmaidens that have aged quite a bit, and and moved on from their fighting days being called back to work? Count me in! I loved the tone and the voice from the very first moment, and had a hard time to put the book down even for a short while. While it could have had a tiny bit more depth here and there, I am still utterly in love with the characters and the style of the book!
In Incursion we venture into something a bit darker. Not fully Grimdark, but still a tone down from the books I recommended above.
This book has a great mix of mystery, plenty of magic, adventures, politics, friendships and something I especially enjoy: we get to accompany the main characters on a series of tests that include sword smithing for example. There’s also no clear cut good or bad side, which is always a big plus for me!
Also available as good audiobook!
Shields in Shadow took a while to fully grip me, but once it did I really enjoyed it! The characters start of a bit too close to the usual tropes, but they do grow and become more three dimensional as the book, and the series goes on. This one is low in magic, and instead heavy in military tactics and fighting – and definitely on the darker side of things. Again, I wouldn’t call it grimdark, but at least dark. If you like a fast paced and action heavy series with plenty of warfare, while accompanying a group of soldiers who train to go into stealth mode, this should be high on your list!
Rob J. Hayes
And here we are at proper Grimdark! I love the main character. One of my favourite characters I’ve ever read! Eska is made up of vengeance, stubbornness and determination. She will go through walls headfirst if needed, no matter if that might kill her. Never give up, never give in, and if necessary walk over a pile of bodies. I rarely identify with anyone as much as I did with her, and even if I can’t just go and stab people, I know the feeling of rather hurting myself than letting someone else “win”.
The world has not been nice to Eska, and now Eska is not nice to the world, and anyone in her way. She isn’t actually evil, and is surrounded by a group of people who try to escape “the pit” they are in together. You just shouldn’t try to stand in her way… An absolute favourite of mine!
Oh – and the audiobook is just perfect. The narration is spot on!
Also on the grimmer side of life, Chains of Blood manages to balance violence and gore with more thought provoking bits. I liked the way it handled the way characters deal with what is thrown at them. So often you just see heads flying, and people moving on, here we have more of a focus on how all the sh*t that’s happening is affecting the world as much as the people who life in it.
This is a sequel series to the Rhenwar books, but you do not have to read Rhenwar first to understand it.
Also available as a good audiobook!
Lee C Conley
And last, but definitely not least, I have one more grimdark adventure for you! A Ritual of Bones is a mix of medieval fantasy world, and zombies – and I really enjoyed that twist! We are so used to seeing more dystopian Zombie stories, they are less common in fantasy worlds, and seeing how people would deal with something like this without easy communication like we have these days was extra interesting! And having my superior Zombie movie knowledge I quite often went “Now, now, that is not a wise idea…”. This could have killed the suspense, but instead it actually added an extra layer of emotions for me! Be warned – this one is not for the faint of heart, and not everyone will make it to the end… (I mean, Zombies… I wouldn’t have expected differently!)
And this one too, is available as good audiobook!