Looking for something fantastical to read this summer? Well, you're in luck. Here at IGN we adore all kinds of stories but many of the games and films that are closest to our hearts hail from the epic realm of fantasy. From the shires of Lord of the Rings to the kingdoms of Game of Thrones all the way through the dungeons of Elden Ring, we spent a lot of time excavating and exploring the best that fantasy has to offer. That's why we're perfectly suited to lay out a list of the best fantasy novels to read in 2023. From Arthurian reimaginings to unique portal stories, faustian pacts to tea-steeping magic and more, these books will sate your fantasy appetites.
Every Heart a Doorway by Seanan McGuire
The first entry into McGuire's wonderful Wayward Children novella series, Every Heart a Doorway is a fantasy story like no other. Taking on the classic portal trope, the story takes place at a boarding school for young people who have been rejected by the magical worlds that once welcomed them. When a spate of violent murders begin to occur within the academy's walls a group of students have to come together to discover who is killing their classmates and why. Filled with well-defined characters you'll quickly grow to care about, McGuire has created a world that you'll want to revisit again and again, and luckily you can.
Legendborn by Tracy Deonn
Tracy Deonn delivered one of the best Arthurian reimaginings in decades with this immersive, complex, and moving fantasy adventure. After the shocking death of her mother, Bree Matthews is ready for a new start. Hoping that an academic programme will offer up the change of pace she needs, Bree heads to UNC–Chapel Hill and her new life. But the school has a secret, one Bree discovers on her first night when she comes across a young man named Merlin who just so happens to be battling a demon. Deonn's intricate world building and enchanting magic system will immediately hook fantasy fans whether they're familiar with Arthurian lore or not.
The Invisible Life of Addie Larue by VE Schwab
Centuries ago Addie Larue made a deal with the devil. Her wish: to live forever. The cost: that everyone she'll ever meet will forget her after a single day. It's a choice that haunts Addie as she traverses the globe, always alone, living like a ghost at the edges of other people's lives. But when she meets a young man who remembers name. Schwab has long proven her talent for character-driven fantasy with books like A Darker Shade of Magic and Vicious, but this is her masterwork. Heartbreaking, life-affirming, and endlessly readable there's a reason this unforgettable fantasy book sold over a million copies in its first year of release.
House in the Cerulean Sea by TJ Klune
One of the loveliest novels of the last decade — if not longer — this charming fantasy takes place in a near future world where certain children are born with superpowers. Linus Baker has spent his life dedicated to his bureaucratic job in the Department in Charge of Magical Youth. Making sure that the institutions that look after the special children tick all of the department's boxes has always been simple. That changes when Linus is sent to determine whether or not Arthur Parnassus' orphanage and the children who live there are a threat to existence as we know it. Linus isn't expecting his life to change but that's exactly what happens in this charming and utterly unique story about finding home, family, and where you belong.
A Magic Steeped in Poison by Judy I. Lim
This debut novel marked Lim as a writer to watch and you'll see why when you pick up this dynamic and deeply original historical fantasy yarn. Ning is a shennong-shi — a student of the ancient and magical art of tea-making — but a great personal loss sets her on an unexpected journey into the heart of the Imperial City and the backstabbing dangers of the Royal Court. With a magic system that you've likely never seen before, a furiously determined lead, and a world that you'll want to lose yourself in, this is a fantastical tale of court intrigue and tea-steeping that'll have you reaching for the sequel as soon as you reach the last page.
The City We Became by NK Jemisin
Multiple Hugo-Winning author Jemisin once again pushes the boundaries of what we think fantasy can be with this inventive and ambitious love letter to New York. The interconnected lives of six strangers collide in this epic and fantastical tale about the nature of a city and those who live within it. It's hard to try to summarize the tale without spoiling its secrets but if you're someone who likes your fiction to feature locations that feel like vital characters you'll fall instantly in love with this tale about the power of city, community, and coming together.
The Water Outlaws by S.L. Huang
Reimagining the famed Chinese novel Water Margin, this epic Wuxia fantasy will blow you away. Lin Chong knows her place, she's a skilled weapons master who has worked her way up to a secure position training the Emperor's armies. Though she knows in her heart that the Imperial rule is cruel and oppressive, she keeps her head down, sticks to her training, and plays it safe. But when her structured life is devastated by the actions of a violent man, Lin Chong finds herself on the run and soon becomes entangled in a world of bandits, warriors, and mountain outlaws. Can she find her place and purpose among them? And will she escape the Imperial Marshall on her tail? Huang's dynamic prose and animated action will keep you hooked 'til the very last page.
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Rosie Knight is a contributing freelancer for IGN covering everything from anime to comic books to kaiju to kids movies to horror flicks. She has over half a decade of experience in entertainment journalism with bylines at Nerdist, Den of Geek, Polygon, and more.