Books LIke The Kingkiller Chronicles
1. Serpentine by Cindy Pon
An outcast who tries to keep her place among the people she cares about? You’re an outsider who’s trying to figure out who you are and where you fit in. My name’s on the list!
As a trusted companion to the daughter of a wealthy noble, Skybright has a dark secret. At night, she transforms into a venomous serpent demon that she has no control over. It gets worse: Other bizarre creatures claim she is theirs and not of this world. In order to help Zhen Ni with an arranged match, Skybright prefers to remain normal and assist her. A combination of fate and duty have left her with no choice but to answer the call at the most inconvenient times.
In Book One, we learn little about the magical world, but the mysterious origins of Skybright beckon to her. Because she has a duty to her mistress, she tries to avoid what appears to be a pre-ordained path. In particular, I’m excited to read book two and see what else we learn.
2. The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms by N.K. Jemisin
Royal succession is a risky business. When you’re seen as an outsider, it never pays. Due to an undisclosed scandal, Yeine Darr, a member of the royal family, has spent her entire life in a northern tribe. Then comes the death of her mother. With two other children, her grandfather gathers them all together and proclaims her the rightful heiress of their kingdom. In response, he tells her that she has no choice but to fight for her position. They will kill her if she doesn’t.
As early as the first chapter, it’s clear that this is going to be a wild ride. In this new world, Yeine must find a way to fit in and redefine her role. She despises sleight of hand and would rather return to her mother’s house and be with her in her final days. Every new discovery expands both the world and the lore.
3. Coal: Book One of the Everleaf Series by Constance Burris
Coal prefers to remain in the realm of the fey. Since he was rescued from the streets of the human world by a fairy princess, he has lived there his entire life. In a matter of days, the princess named Chalcedony will be crowned queen of her kingdom. Fey fear that Coal’s close friendship with him will interfere in the fey’s royal duties and political allegiances, despite Coal’s claims that the two are friends. However, the princess does not want to lose Coal as an apprentice to a blacksmith.
When trying to find a solution to the problem, Chalcedony considers substituting a human child named Elizabeth for Coal. Because of the fey, Elizabeth eventually breaks a law that could have resulted in her death. When it appears that Chalcedony must kill or enslave Elizabeth in order to save face, Coal decides to flee with her and bring her back to his home. To do so, on the other hand, amounts to the most heinous kind of treason.
The fey have no place in our lives. Not even Coal, as he gradually comes to understand. It’s still possible that Chalcedony’s efforts to circumvent the law and save Elizabeth could be trusted. We have no idea if Coal has the right to fight for his freedom. He may or may not have earned his happy ending, as one reader pointed out. But I really hope he does.
4. Wrath of the Dawn By Renee Ardieh
The story of Scheherezade has been told innumerable times. She married him, risking her life, because she was determined to save her country from the murderous rule of her king. A cliffhanger was left at the end of every story she told. After telling him enough stories, he fell in love with her and stopped being a serial killer.
In Sharzad’s telling, that’s not true Sharzad’s goal is to kill her king, not to save anyone. As part of his plan to marry one woman at a time and kill her at dawn, he killed her cousin Shiva. She has high hopes of defeating him and discovering the truth about why he has been responsible for the deaths of so many people. Her shifting feelings toward him, as well as the answers she receives, are both shocking. Unlike the original Scheherazade, this world isn’t a series of fairy tales with puzzles upon puzzles.
5. Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi
Divination was once possible with magic in this novel. They had received divine favor. They did, however, lose their abilities about eleven years ago. The king’s soldiers killed as many powerless diviners as they could during the nighttime raid. They are now known as “maggots” and must pay hefty taxes in order to maintain their freedom.
Zelie is a descendant of the diviners. She lacks magical abilities, but she does have the characteristic white hair. She’s tough, though, and she has a gut instinct that something is wrong. It doesn’t sit well with the king when it appears that the magic is back in action. On discovering that his daughter’s powers have returned, he kills her best friend and confidant, a diviner. As a penance for Binta’s death, the princess decides to assist the diviners in their work. Neither the marginalized nor those who wish to right the wrongs will find this world friendly. When you know that the journey is difficult, it makes the end even sweeter.
6. The Dark Tower series by Stephen King
Stephen King was a major influence on the genres of horror and fantasy. Idris Elba stars in a recent film adaptation of The Dark Tower, which at the very least has an impressive lead.
Roland the Gunslinger is on the prowl for the Tower, hoping to avert any harm it may come to. An evil black man sends him on his way, but he also vows to destroy him in the process. In order to do this, he must travel to various worlds, make friends, and capture foes. He comes to our world on occasion, and he does so at various points in time. When that doesn’t work, he enters realms wielding homicidal golden discs and balls.
There is a lot of violence, a lot of artistic license with mental illness, and a lot of unsympathetic decisions made in the first three books. You’re in for a treat if you make it through books five and six.
7. The Dark Lord of Derkholm duo By Diana Wynne Jones
It’s impossible to go wrong with Diana, who passed away this week. She was an excellent writer and one of the most inventive. She depicts a world where sorcerers are forced to play villains and sidekicks for tourists in this two-book story. For Dirk, it’s all about creating new animal-hybrids that he can adopt and call his own. Then, when they finally get to college, they discover that the quality of instruction is far below par.
Pastiches of the other books on this list, Dark Lord of Derkholm and Year of the Griffin, are not original works. In Diana’s view, authors could do better than the cliches that people used to emulate Tolkien. A book filled with affectionate scorn and comedic relief for our inner child was born as a result. As evidenced by the pit of orange juice that was meant for an assassin, her skepticism paid off.
8. Keys to the Kingdom by Garth Nix (Children’s Literature)
Alice in Wonderland meets The Secret of the Unicorn in Keys to the Kingdom. Arthur Penhaligon discovers that he must acquire all of the keys from various beings known as the Days of the Week.. The only way to do this is to enter their realms, face their monsters, and seek out new allies from the other races. Also, he’s on the hit list for “These Days of the Week.” Nothing to fear, right?
Arthur wishes he could go back to his old routine. The hero they need is still waiting for him in these worlds. The lore is massive, and intense. We barely have time to catch our breath and try to piece together what just transpired. And it’s a joy to behold.
9. Discworld by Terry Pratchett
You’re looking for stories that are filled with lore, with hooks that can sometimes lead to a whole series, but that are still standalone? Discworld was the next step. Fantasy genre tropes are satirized and parodied in this flat world, which is ridden by a turtle. There are laughs and gut-punches in every book.
Of course, there are flaws in Discworld. Even though he was ahead of his time, Terry Pratchett had some stories that may not be well received by people of color. Selecting your favorite stories is entirely up to you. Most of the books have been reviewed by Mark Oshiro, and he has identified the ones that contain objectionable content. My personal favorites are Hogfather, Carpe Jugulum, and The Shepherd’s Crown.