The Bone Shard Daughter by Andrea Stewart
This series is perfect for readers looking for intricate world building combined with an engaging cast of characters. Every child in the empire has a slice of bone carved from their necks for future use in the emperor’s magic. The emperor uses these bone shards to create monstrous constructs that serve as his spies, military, and servants. Lin, the emperor’s daughter, wants to ensure she inherits her father’s kingdom, but he refuses to teach her bone shard magic until she remembers her past — which she’s forgotten after a mysterious illness. Jovis is a smuggler reluctantly rescuing children from their bone shard ceremonies. When he rescues an animal after an island collapses, he develops a magic lost to history. Ranami is a member of the Shardless Few, who are rebels fighting against the empire, and Phalue is the corrupt governor’s daughter. Phalue wants to marry Ranami, who keeps denying her, while Ranami wants Phalue to see how her life of privilege comes at the cost of other people’s lives and happiness. These stories intersect in this action-packed epic fantasy. The third and final book in the trilogy will be released next year
Black Sun by Rebecca Roanhorse
Intricate worldbuilding, prophecies, political intrigue, and a powerful religious sect collide in this first book in a pre-Columbian America-inspired trilogy. Much like Rand, Serapio’s destiny is to become the Crow God reborn and wreak vengeance on the Sun Priest and their followers, who have violently suppressed the holy city Tova’s indigenous religious traditions. Xiala, a captain charged with carrying Serapio to Tova, can calm the waters with her voice, an inheritance from her magical, ocean-dwelling Teek heritage, but her sailors fear her. On Tova, the new Sun Priest Naranpa is unprepared for the order’s political machinations and backstabbing, and all of them underestimate the indigenous population. The second book in the series, Fevered Star, releases in April.
The Grace of Kings by Ken Liu
This first book in a military fantasy quartet describes a war-torn Dara, where a collection of conquered islands are rebelling against their conquerors. Two rise up as prominent players in this rebellion — Kuni Garu, a poor but resourceful gangster, and Mata Zyndu, a noble-born giant and fighter of mythic proportions. Much like The Wheel of Time, the series alternates between a vast array of characters involved in the rebellion, providing a vast scope for the rebellion’s history. The fourth and final book in the series releases in June.
The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms by N.K. Jemisin
Yeine Darr and her mother are outcasts from the ruling family of Sky and live far away from their cruelty and political machinations. However, when Yeine’s mother dies under mysterious circumstances, the king calls Yeine to his palace in Sky and declares her one of his three heirs, if she can survive the conniving of the other two heirs. In Sky, she meets and befriends three imprisoned gods who know the secrets from her past. I can’t go into too many details about how this first book in the Inheritance Trilogy compares to The Wheel of Time without revealing spoilers, but N.K. Jemisin’s debut fantasy trilogy is both complex and enthralling.
The Jasmine Throne by Tasha Suri
If you were drawn to Moiraine and Siuan’s narrative in the show, then check out this first book in a politically charged, sapphic fantasy series inspired by Indian epics. Priya once was a child of a revered temple, training in its magical ways, but when an evil tyrant conquers her nation, he orders the temple burned, and all the children are believed to be dead. Priya hides her secret and becomes a maidservant who cares for dying children stricken by a persistent disease. Princess Malini is the sister of the tyrannical conqueror, and when she refuses to die for him, he imprisons her in the derelict remains of the temple Priya grew up in. When Priya becomes her only maidservant, the two hatch plans for an escape that could change the future of both their nations. The second book in the series, The Oleander Sword, releases in August.
Assassin’s Apprentice by Robin Hobb
It’s hard to find long, consistently stellar series, but Hobb’s Elderlings series spans 15 books and, if anything, improves over time. This first book introduces the protagonist across all 15 books — Fitz Farseer, a young royal bastard abandoned by his mother. He lives in his father, the King’s, household, though he rarely sees him, and trains to become an assassin at night. He can also communicate telepathically with animals, though he hides his skill because magic is outlawed. Each book follows Fitz’s life from the six-year-old boy left on the King’s doorstep to a youth who can transform into a wolf to a father in hiding, trying to forget his violent past. It’s an excellent fantasy series for readers looking to lose themselves in a world as epic as The Wheel of Time.
The Rage of Dragons by Evan Winter
The Burning series is set in a Zulu-inspired fantasy world with dragons. In this first book, Tau knows he’s destined to fight in the endless war the Omehi people have been fighting for centuries. He has no desire to excel at battle, instead hoping to escape to live a quiet life. However, when a cruel upper-class Omehi kills his father for no reason, Tau’s peaceful dreams evaporate, replaced by rage. He vows to train in combat and become the fiercest warrior there ever was so he can murder the man who killed his father. Meanwhile, his childhood sweetheart becomes one of the few women who can control dragons with magic. She joins the army as well to fight in the endless war. The first two books in the series have been published. Two more are to follow, but release dates have yet to be announced.
The Goblin Emperor by Katherine Addison
This character-driven epic fantasy depicts an unlikely ruler taking the throne and deciding to rule with kindness, not an easy accomplishment amidst all the courtly intrigue and backstabbing. Maia is the fourth son of the elfish emperor and the only son of the emperor’s goblin wife. Due to the emperor’s hatred of his goblin wife, who died when Maia was eight, Maia has lived his first eighteen years isolated from the emperor and society and raised by an abusive mentor. When the emperor and his eldest three sons die in an airship explosion, Maia becomes the first half-goblin emperor of the elves. Maia has no friends in court and has never been educated in politics. Struggling to understand the reality of his new life, he also needs to discover who murdered his family before they come for him. Though there are two more novels in this series, they follow a different character whose story is mostly separate from Maia’s.
A Stranger in Olondria by Sofia Samatar
This first book in a completed fantasy duology begins with a young merchant’s son, Jevick, dreaming of traveling to Olondria. Jevick’s dull small town is nothing compared to the stories his Olondrian tutor spins of his country’s cosmopolitan ways. When Jevick’s father dies, he eagerly embarks on his first trip to Olondria, but his tutor’s stories haven’t quite prepared him for what he finds. Though he revels in the seemingly endless books and new sights, he becomes the center of a religious struggle that could bring about war when a young illiterate ghost haunts him. Like Rand, Egwene, Mat, Perrin, and Nynaeve discover, traveling from the country to the city has many risks. The second and final book in the series, The Winged Histories, introduces four new characters.
King’s Dragon by Kate Elliott
This completed seven-book series takes place in the war-torn kingdom of Wendar, where ancient magic sends dark creatures across its borders. Alain and Liath could not be more removed from the kingdom’s problems. The orphan Alain was promised to the church but escapes that path in search of glory. Instead, he winds up cleaning a noble’s stables. Liath is the daughter of two sorcerers yet has no magic herself. She struggles to keep a secret from her parents quiet after she’s enslaved. These two become pivotal players in Wendar’s survival. Dark magic, unlikely heroes, intricate world building, and an epic scale make this series an excellent read-alike to The Wheel of Time.
The Way of Kings by Brandon Sanderson
Readers of The Wheel of Time are probably already familiar with Sanderson, who completed the series after Robert Jordan’s death. Brandon Sanderson has many other fantasy series, but the one that will appeal most to The Wheel of Time readers is The Stormlight Archives, which begins with The Way of Kings. Sprawling and epic in scope, the series chronicles an endless war in the Shattered Plains. Kaladin, once a medical apprentice, is now an enslaved person in a war where battle leaders consider minions like him expendable. He fights against this prejudice to save his fellow soldiers. The honorable high prince Dalinar leads the war effort for his nephew, the king, but recent visions have him questioning his sanity. Meanwhile, Shallan, a noble’s daughter, plans a daring theft as she pretends to train with Dalinar’s niece. With a cast of characters as large as the world-building, this is a series to get lost in. The first four books have been published, with six more projected to finish the series.
The Priory of the Orange Tree by Samantha Shannon
If you’re looking for more powerful ladies wielding magic, then this sprawling, feminist stand-alone fantasy is a must. The unmarried Queen Sabran the Ninth rules in the West. She must produce an heir to secure her kingdom’s future, and with assassins closing in around her, she doesn’t have much time to do so. In the South, a secret society of female mages sends a spy, Ead Duryan, to Queen Sabran’s court to keep her alive using forbidden magic. Across the Abyss Sea in the East, Tané trains to be a dragonrider. When she discovers a seafarer from the West on her borders, her decision not to report him changes everything.
The Poppy War by R.F. Kuang
Like in The Wheel of Time, a poor and unlikely hero becomes the best hope for her country during a devastating war. The Nikara Empire has experienced two Poppy Wars with the nearby Federation of Mugen, and a third is anticipated at any moment. Rin, a dark-skinned peasant from an abusive home, doesn’t stand much of a chance of finding success, but when she excels at a challenging nationwide exam, she’s allowed into the elite Sinegard military academy. Here she discovers her shamanic powers, and Rin becomes a force to be reckoned with and her country’s best hope of winning the next war. All three books in this Chinese-inspired fantasy have been completed.
The Cloud Roads by Martha Wells
Moon can shapeshift into a winged creature but has spent his entire life hiding his shapeshifting abilities from the tribe that adopted him. When a traveler reveals he’s a shapeshifter too and can bring Moon home, Moon jumps at the chance to find others like him. However, the traveler failed to mention that others in his home colony revile Moon’s shapeshifter subspecies and that he would become the center of a power struggle. This is the first book in a completed five-book series that’s as inventive as it is exceptionally crafted. Readers looking for more books with shapeshifters like Perrin and complex fantasy societies will love this series.
Shardik by Richard Adams
While Richard Adams is best known for Watership Down, he also wrote two stand-alone high fantasy novels in the fictional Beklan Empire. I first read Shardik as a teenager while I was making my way through the first five The Wheel of Time novels, so their fantasy worlds, while different, resonate in similar ways. When the reincarnation of Shardik, the bear god, is discovered by a small tribe in the Beklan Empire, the hunter Kelderek predicts the bear will lead them to greatness. To help fulfill the bear god’s prophecy, Kelderek becomes the bear god’s first priest. As religious fervor transforms the Beklan Empire, Kelderek’s vision of power leads him toward increasingly unethical acts. Adams considered Shardik to be his best novel. The second book that takes place in the Beklan Empire, Maia, features a peasant girl sold into slavery finding her way towards power.●
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