The Best Modern Fantasy Books for Summer 2019


There’s no shortage of excellent fantasy releasing these days. It’s quite literally impossible to keep up with it all. That’s a good problem to have as far as these things go, but sifting through mountains of books can be a daunting task.

The following list is just a small collection of some of the best new fantasy novels that have been published over the past year or so. These books range from historical fantasies to sweeping epics to stories about powerful women in strange lands to re-imaginings of Greek myths.

Here are seven great modern fantasy books for your summer reading—or any season:

A Brightness Long Ago by Guy Gavriel Kay

Set in the same near-Europe Kay has explored in several previous novels evoking different times and places, A Brightness Long Ago is the latest novel from the award-winning Canadian author. As with much of Kay’s work, the world he builds is a mirror of our own, this time a reimagining of Renaissance Italy as the elderly Danio recalls his unlikely life story. Kay’s prose shines throughout this story of assassinations, wicked rulers and normal people caught up in sweeping historical events.

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Circe by Madeline Miller

The winner of the Goodreads 2018 Readers Choice Awards, Circe is a reimagining of Homer’s The Odyssey, though it focuses on a woman from that story rather than its title character. Circe—daughter of the Sun—is no mere mortal, but she lacks the power of her fellow immortals and is banished to an island by Zeus.

In this novel she begins to learn the power of witchcraft, and encounters characters and creatures plucked out of Greek mythology, like the Minotaur and Odysseus himself.

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A Little Hatred by Joe Abercrombie

Readers may be familiar with Joe Abercrombie’s previous work, including his award-winning First Law trilogy. Abercrombie’s work is dark and gritty and filled with black humor and grim observations about human nature.

In A Little HatredAbercrombie returns to the fantastical world he’s created, only later on, as the world teeters toward an industrial age—or age of machines—with magic stubbornly refusing to let go. It’s a bit reminiscent of The Legend of Korra, which brought the Avatar: The Last Airbender story into a similar time where machines and Benders compete for dominance.

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The Light Of All That Falls by James Islington

The Light Of All That Falls is the third book in James Islington’s Licanius Trilogywhich has often been compared to The Wheel Of Time, but which I find quite a bit more original and enjoyable.

The first two books weave a compelling tale of powerful immortals, a world deeply divided between magic users and the rest of society, and a dark and lurking threat on the other side of a powerful magical barrier. The third book releases later this year. You should start with The Shadow Of What Was Lost and go from there.

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Age Of Legend by Michael J. Sullivan

The fourth book in Michael J. Sullivan’s Legends Of The First Empire series, which takes place in the same world but in a very different era as the excellent Riyria novels, was just released this summer. Sullivan’s sprawling tale of epic fantasy, rich characters and dangerous magic will leave you on the edge of your seat and eagerly waiting the fifth book. If you haven’t started the series yet, begin with Age Of Mythor better yet go back and pick up Sullivan’s Riryia novels, though you can start with any of his interconnected series in whichever order you please.

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Lent by Jo Walton

Lent is a historical fantasy set in a fantastical version of Florence, Italy, after the death of its leader Lorenzo de’Medici leaves the city in danger.

The story centers on Brother Girolamo as both an invading French army and a horde of demons threatens Florence. Only Girolamo can see the demons, and he’s soon brought to trial for heresy and executed.

After this, things take a very strange turn, indeed. A terrific blend of history and fantasy with some surprising twists and turns.

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The Priory Of The Orange Tree by Samantha Shannon

A stand-alone fantasy novel, The Priory of the Orange Tree details a rich, magical world in which three vastly different societies all have very different opinions about dragons.

The matriarchal Virtudom believes dragons are a force of evil. Meanwhile, in the East, dragons are worshipped and dragon riders rule the sky. Secret cabals of female mages work to prevent a powerful dark force from returning. Best of all, this is an entirely self-contained story so you won’t have to wait around years for a sequel.