I don’t know if any of you have noticed this, but it feels a bit like fantasy as a genre is going through some form of golden age at the moment. Great books seem to be coming out left, right and centre, while TV and film (having seen the success of The Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter and Game of Thrones) are picking up series every five minutes. It is almost an undeniable fact that it is great time to be a fan of the genre.
Now, obviously, a huge part of this is having authors creating these great books! This does include established authors making strides with releases, but also the debut authors bringing fresh ideas to the genre – and so I thought I would do a bit of a celebration of these guys and gals that are making waves! Now as a criteria for the ‘recentness’ of these books, I am saying five years. I’d say anything pre-2015 isn’t that recent.
These are all books I have read, and I know there are other great debuts out there, but I’m not physically able to read everything that gets released. So if a debut release from recent years that you absolutely loved isn’t on here, it is possible I haven’t read it – and, naturally, I don’t feel comfortable recommending books I haven’t read!
So I’m going to stop waffling on now and give you six great, recent debut recommendations!
The Bear and the Nightingale
Frost-demons have no interest in mortal girls wed to mortal men. In the stories, they only come for the wild maiden.
In a village at the edge of the wilderness of northern Russia, where the winds blow cold and the snow falls many months of the year, an elderly servant tells stories of sorcery, folklore and the Winter King to the children of the family, tales of old magic frowned upon by the church.
But for the young, wild Vasya these are far more than just stories. She alone can see the house spirits that guard her home, and sense the growing forces of dark magic in the woods…
Slavic fairy tales and ridiculously atmospheric writing your thing? Then this book is for you! Plus, Vasya is a great central character who you can’t help but cheer for as she battles the superstitious, patriarchal society that is trying to control her, while using her abilities to save the very people looking to control her.
City of Brass
Among the bustling markets of eighteenth century Cairo, the city’s outcasts eke out a living swindling rich Ottoman nobles and foreign invaders alike.
But alongside this new world the old stories linger. Tales of djinn and spirits. Of cities hidden among the swirling sands of the desert, full of enchantment, desire and riches. Where magic pours down every street, hanging in the air like dust.
Many wish their lives could be filled with such wonder, but not Nahri. She knows the trades she uses to get by are just tricks and sleights of hand: there’s nothing magical about them. She only wishes to one day leave Cairo, but as the saying goes…
Be careful what you wish for.
A whirlwind, Middle Eastern, fantasy adventure full of djinn, powerful spirits, political intrigue and betrayal. If that doesn’t sell you, then I don’t know what will, quite honestly. Plus, the third book in the series is coming out soon, so you it is the perfect time to get stuck in!
The Rage of Dragons
The Omehi people have been fighting an unwinnable war for generations. The lucky ones are born gifted: some have the power to call down dragons, others can be magically transformed into bigger, stronger, faster killing machines.
Everyone else is fodder, destined to fight and die in the endless war. Tau Tafari wants more than this, but his plans of escape are destroyed when those closest to him are brutally murdered.
With too few gifted left the Omehi are facing genocide, but Tau cares only for revenge. Following an unthinkable path, he will strive to become the greatest swordsman to ever live, willing to die a hundred thousand times for the chance to kill three of his own people.
I’ve seen this described as African-inspired fantasy meets Gladiator, and, while I usually try to think of my own ways to describe books, I can’t think of a better way than that! A ridiculously fast-paced, brutal tale of revenge that will have you gripped from page one.
Empire of Sand
A nobleman’s daughter with magic in her blood.
An empire built on the dreams of enslaved Gods.
Mehr is a girl trapped between two cultures. Her father comes from the ruling classes of the empire, but her mother’s people were outcasts, Amrithi nomads who worshipped the spirits of the sands.
Caught one night performing these forbidden rites, Mehr is brought to the attention of the Emperor’s most feared mystics, who try to force her into their service by way of an arranged marriage. If she fails in their bidding, the gods themselves may awaken and seek vengeance…
A fantasy world inspired by the Mughal Empire in India, is the setting for this book that has some of the most beautiful writing going. This is a slow burn of a book that takes its time to get going in the best way possible as you will want to spend more time exploring this world and reading about Mehr and her struggles against the oppression of the Ambhan Empire.
The Grey Bastards
Jackal is proud to be a Grey Bastard, member of a sworn brotherhood of half-orcs. Unloved and unwanted in civilized society, the Bastards eke out a hard life in the desolate no-man’s-land called the Lots, protecting frail and noble human civilization from invading bands of vicious full-blooded orcs.
But as Jackal is soon to learn, his pride may be misplaced. Because a dark secret lies at the heart of the Bastards’ existence – one that reveals a horrifying truth behind humanity’s tenuous peace with the orcs, and exposes a grave danger on the horizon.
On the heels of the ultimate betrayal, Jackal must scramble to stop a devastating invasion – even as he wonders where his true loyalties lie.
Orcs are usually the bad guys, right? Not here! The Grey Bastards strikes a brilliant balance between being gritty and humour. Plus, the camaraderie and friendships in this book are top notch.
The Gutter Prayer
The city of Guerdon stands eternal. A refuge from the war that rages beyond its borders. But in the ancient tunnels deep beneath its streets, a malevolent power has begun to stir.
The fate of the city rests in the hands of three thieves. They alone stand against the coming darkness. As conspiracies unfold and secrets are revealed, their friendship will be tested to the limit. If they fail, all will be lost and the streets of Guerdon will run with blood.
The city of Guerdon is practically a character of its own here: it is full to the brim with unique, terrifying monsters and technology that all interweave brilliantly with the story and our three main protagonists.
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So there you have it. Six great fantasy debuts from recent years. Hope you maybe found out about some new books!
Let me know if you have read any of these and which books would you have picked?