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Best Fantasy Books of 2023 So Far: Your Ultimate Guide to Magical Realms and Epic Quests

jeremy collier storyteller

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June 30, 2023

As we inch closer to the halfway point of 2023, it’s the perfect time to take a breather, sip some calming chamomile tea, and dive into the fantastical worlds brought to life by the year’s most riveting reads. If you’re a seasoned voyager of magical realms or a newcomer just dipping your toes into the pool of fantasy literature, this listicle of the best fantasy books of 2023 so far is your golden ticket to otherworldly adventures.

We’ve carefully curated this guide to help you navigate the sea of magical novels released this year, pinpointing those exceptional gems that truly sparkle with ingenuity. Each entry in our list promises to whisk you away on an epic quest, introduce you to enchanting characters, and ignite your imagination with awe-inspiring world-building. Stay tuned as we embark on this literary journey that promises to be as thrilling as the books we’re about to explore.

Before we get into it, I just wanted to let you know that this post contains affiliate links. If you use these links to buy something, we may earn a commission at no extra cost to you. This helps keep our content free, and we only recommend products we love and believe would be useful to our readers.

Let’s first set the stage for what to expect from this magical list.

Exploring the Landscape of 2023 Fantasy Books

The fantasy genre offers an infinite canvas for authors to weave their tales, and 2023 has brought forth an array of such masterpieces. Our selection criteria for this list is simple yet effective: the book must be a standout fantasy novel published in the first half of 2023.
Whether you enjoy epic high fantasies set in medieval-inspired landscapes, urban fantasies that blend the mundane with the magical, or dark fantasies that delve into the shadows of human nature, we’ve got you covered. This list traverses a diverse range of worlds, characters, and plots, from debuts that took the genre by storm to new installments from beloved authors.

What ties these books together is their shared capacity to transport readers, their unique spins on traditional tropes, and their unmatched ability to tell a compelling story. They each illuminate the remarkable breadth and depth of the fantasy genre, showcasing the magic that can be conjured with just a dash of creativity and a sprinkle of well-crafted prose.

Best Fantasy Books of 2023 (So Far)

1. Every Heart a Doorway

Written by: Seanan McGuire

Book Synopsis

Seanan McGuire’s “Every Heart a Doorway” opens the gate to her captivating Wayward Children novella series. Venturing beyond the typical portal-fantasy trope, the plot unravels in a boarding school catering to youngsters discarded by their erstwhile magical realms. A wave of brutal murders stirs the otherwise serene academy, compelling a group of students to uncover the harrowing truth. The characters in this story are intricately designed, ensuring readers quickly form deep connections with them, making McGuire’s world an irresistible draw that keeps you coming back for more.

Author Background

Hailing from California, Seanan McGuire is known for her relaxed attitude towards venomous wildlife and a palpable fear of the weather. As Mira Grant, her pseudonym, she writes thrilling science fiction besides her urban fantasy works. When she’s not absorbed in writing, she enjoys watching horror films, exploring swamps, producing original music, and spending quality time with her cats, Lilly, Alice, and Thomas. A fervent admirer of the X-Men, folklore, and the Black Death, Seanan has authored multiple urban fantasy series, including October Daye, InCryptid, and Indexing; Newsflesh trilogy; Parasitology duology; and the “Velveteen vs.” superhero shorts.

2. Legendborn

Written by: Tracy Deonn

Book Synopsis

“Legendborn” by Tracy Deonn is a compelling fantasy adventure that offers a fresh take on Arthurian legends. Following her mother’s tragic death, Bree Matthews seeks solace in a new beginning, enrolling in an academic program at UNC-Chapel Hill. However, the institution harbors a secret unveiled to Bree during an unexpected encounter with a demon-fighting young man named Merlin. Deonn’s meticulous world-building and enchanting magic system effortlessly captivate fantasy enthusiasts, irrespective of their familiarity with Arthurian tales.

Author Background
Tracy Deonn is an avid writer and a self-proclaimed second-generation fangirl. Raised in North Carolina, she developed a fondness for fantasy literature and Southern cuisine. Post acquiring her master’s degree from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in communication and performance studies, Tracy engaged in diverse roles, including live theater, video game production, and K-12 education. When not weaving words, Tracy participates in science fiction and fantasy conventions, reads fanfic, arranges puppy playdates, and relishes ginger-flavored delights.

3. The Invisible Life of Addie Larue

Written by: VE Schwab

Book Synopsis

In “The Invisible Life of Addie Larue,” VE Schwab unfurls a tale of a pact made with the devil centuries ago. Addie Larue desired immortality, but her wish came at a price: everyone she meets forgets her within a day. As Addie roams across time and space, the loneliness of her eternal life bears heavily upon her until she crosses paths with someone who remembers her. Schwab, known for her compelling character-driven narratives, outdoes herself in this enchanting fantasy, rendering it a heartfelt, invigorating read that has been loved by millions worldwide since its release.

Author Background

Victoria “V. E.” Schwab, a #1 New York Times bestselling author, has penned more than twenty books, including the celebrated Shades of Magic series, the Villains series, the Cassidy Blake series, and the global bestseller, The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue. Her work, critically acclaimed and translated into over two dozen languages, is also being adapted for television and film. In collaboration with Emma Roberts’ Belletrist Productions, Netflix is working on First Kill—a YA vampire series inspired by Schwab’s short story. Usually found wandering the streets of Paris or the hillsides of England, Schwab currently resides in Edinburgh, Scotland, often seen ensconced in a coffee shop corner, conceiving her next monster.

4. House in the Cerulean Sea 

Written by: TJ Klune

Book Synopsis

“House in the Cerulean Sea” by TJ Klune unfolds in a near-future where some children are born with extraordinary abilities. The story revolves around Linus Baker, a diligent bureaucrat serving the Department in Charge of Magical Youth. His life takes an unexpected turn when he’s assigned to investigate Arthur Parnassus’ orphanage and its unique inhabitants. This charming tale explores themes of belonging, family, and home, illustrating how unexpected circumstances can profoundly alter one’s life.

Author Background

Lambda Literary Award winner TJ Klune is recognized for his diverse narratives, including the Green Creek series, “The House on the Cerulean Sea,” and “The Extraordinaries.” As an openly queer individual, Klune understands the importance of accurate and positive queer representation in literature now more than ever.

5. A Magic Steeped in Poison

Written by: Judy I. Lim

Book Synopsis

Judy I. Lim’s debut novel, “A Magic Steeped in Poison,” introduces Ning, a shennong-shi—a disciple of the ancient magical art of tea-making. A personal tragedy propels her on a perilous journey into the treacherous Royal Court of the Imperial City. This novel immerses readers in a unique magic system and a world steeped in intrigue and danger, setting a high bar for historical fantasy literature.

Author Background

Born in Taiwan and raised in Canada, Judy I. Lim developed a love for literature and escapism through books. She now balances her day job as an occupational therapist with her passion for creating her own fantastical worlds. She resides in the Canadian prairies with her family, and “A Magic Steeped in Poison” marks her foray into the world of novels.

6. The City We Became

Written by: NK Jemisin

Book Synopsis

“The City We Became,” penned by the multiple Hugo-winning author NK Jemisin, is a masterful depiction of New York’s vibrancy and the lives intertwined within it. This sweeping tale blurs the boundaries between urban life and fantasy, painting a city that breathes and pulsates as a character unto itself. A story teeming with secrets, it emphasizes the importance of unity and community, ideal for readers who appreciate atmospheric locations in their narratives.

Author Background

Brooklyn-based author N. K. Jemisin is a recognized name in the literary world, having received the Hugo Award for her novel “The Fifth Season.” Her debut novel, “The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms,” won the Locus Award, and her works have been nominated for multiple prestigious awards. A New York Times reviewer of science fiction and fantasy, Jemisin’s writings can be found online at nkjemisin.com.

7. The Water Outlaws

Written by: S.L. Huang

Book Synopsis

“The Water Outlaws” by S.L. Huang is a Wuxia fantasy epic, reimagining the classic Chinese novel “Water Margin.” It follows Lin Chong, a competent weapons master, and trainer for the Emperor’s armies, who finds herself embroiled in a world of bandits and mountain outlaws after a drastic upheaval in her life. Readers will be engrossed in Lin Chong’s journey of self-discovery, evading the pursuit of an Imperial Marshal while navigating the entanglements of her newfound world.

Author Background

S.L. Huang is an Amazon-bestselling and Hugo-winning author known for her unique blend of mathematics and superhero fiction, showcased in her Cas Russell novels and her fantasies “Burning Roses” and “The Water Outlaws.” With an MIT degree, a background in Hollywood stunt performing, and expertise in firearms, Huang’s fascinating journey adds an authentic touch to her writing. Follow her online at www.slhuang.com or on Twitter as @sl_huang.

Honorable Mentions

  1. Shadows of the Lost” by Maxym M. Martineau: A new fantasy series where a reborn immortal must navigate the shadowy complexities of power, trust, and forbidden love.
  2. Secret of the Moon Conch” by David Bowles and Guadalupe García McCall: A mystical tale that travels through time, linking modern-day Mexico and 1521 Tenochtitlan, bound by a magical conch shell.
  3. Ruling Destiny” by Alyson Noël: A continuation of the Stealing Infinity series that follows a time-tripping student, her romantic entanglements, and a threatening, ambitious school owner.
  4. The First Bright Thing” by J.R. Dawson: Set in the aftermath of World War I, a magical circus becomes a refuge for misfits as darkness threatens their harmonious world.
  5. Savage Crowns” by Matt Wallace: In the concluding chapter of the Savage Rebellion trilogy, power struggles and whispers of rebellion echo through the realm.

Wrapping It Up

Our “Best of” book list is designed to help you navigate the ever-evolving landscape of fantasy literature. It offers an enticing blend of diverse plots and captivating characters, each promising a unique journey into fantastical worlds. From immortal assassins and time travelers to mystical conches and dragon riders, this list presents a plethora of adventures that are sure to keep you hooked. Each story embodies a unique exploration of power, destiny, loyalty, love, and magic, ensuring that every reader will find something to resonate with. These books are handpicked for their engaging storytelling, compelling narratives, and the authors’ abilities to transport readers into the heart of their imaginative universes.

Don’t hesitate to delve into these remarkable tales! Take your pick from this eclectic mix, settle into your favorite reading nook, and let these authors whisk you away on a magical journey.

Don’t forget to share your thoughts and recommendations! What are your favorite fantasy books so far this year? Who are the authors that have captivated your imagination? Share this list with fellow book lovers on social media and invite them to join the conversation.
Also, feel free to drop your book recommendations in the comments, expanding this literary journey for us all. As we know, the realm of fantasy is boundless, and every shared recommendation is a new potential adventure.

So go ahead, let’s enrich this exciting journey of fantasy reading together!

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