These are the books I read and rated in 2023 as four and five stars. In essence, they’re the best of the best fantasy (and a little bit of sci-fi) books that I read last year, given in order that I read them. I’ve linked to the book reviews of those that I have on this site, and I hope you find this post useful as you consider which books (or not) to read in the upcoming months!
Wither and Bloom edited Anne J. Hill and Lara E. Madden: A sweet short-story anthology filled with clean fantasy romance stories for teens and adults. I loved how this book tackles the nitty-gritty every day kind of love, not just the falling-in-love type kind of love. There’s also a mix of genres, including contemporary and fantasy.
The Last Legacy by Adrienne Young: This standalone book wasn’t as fast-paced or as fantastical as the books that I usually enjoy reading, so I’m surprised that it made my best of books list. But the language is so beautiful, the characters so real and mysterious, that those elements were enough to keep me reading and what would happen to the MC in this world of manipulation and secrets.
Skyhunter and Steelstriker by Marie Lu: These books are emotionally intense! The MC faces war, torture, and other kinds of trauma, and yet continues to fight for her people. She and the other characters are worth rooting for in the midst of all the challenges Lu puts them through. The sign-language aspect was an interesting twist, and the first time I’ve read about about a deaf main character.
Stormdance by Michelle M. Bruhn: Everyone should read at least one dragon book a year, right? This was the sequel to Songflight, and I enjoyed watching Alísa continue to grow into a leader of both dragons and humans. Also, the worldbuilding is excellent, and there are baby dragons! 🥰
Tress of the Emerald Sea by Brandon Sanderson: Probably my favorite book of 2023! Full of adventure, humor, tea cups, bravery, magic, creative worldbuilding, and characters that stay with you long after the last page: this book will be one I return to again and again.
The Left-Handed Booksellers of London by Garth Nix: An intriguing urban fantasy in which Right-Handed and Left-Handed Booksellers fight Old World monsters and legends. This is a wild ride with weird characters and weirder magic systems. Pick this up if you’re stuck in a rut with your fantasy books.
Wishtress by Nadine Brandes: This was such a sweet story, but still full of high-stakes danger. I loved the idea of a girl giving wishes for her tears, and the MC, Myrthe, is such a likeable character. This book made me think differently about how people could use magical abilities.
Spells for Forgetting by Adrienne Young: Two Adrienne Young books made it on the best of fantasy/sci-fi books list twice this year! As the cover promises, this adult fantasy novel takes place on a broody, atmospheric island. If you enjoy autumn vibes, a haunting mystery, and romantic tension, then you’ll gobble up this book like candy.
The Goose Girl by Shannon Hale: I re-read the entire Books of Bayern series last year, and I enjoy these lush, lovely books just as much as I did as a young reader. The best books are those that, like wine, get better with time. This series is quickly becoming a classic, and if you call yourself a fantasy fanatic and haven’t read them, please do! You won’t regret it.
The Frugal Wizard’s Handbook for Surviving Medieval England by Brandon Sanderson: This adult fantasy is quite different from Tress of the Emerald Sea or the Mistborn Series. In many ways, this book was a coming-of-age story because at the beginning, the MC doesn’t remember who he is and when he does, we longs to change who he is. Deep themes layer this book like dark chocolate chips, but the MC’s silliness and that of the other characters lighten it up like a drizzle of lemon. A must-read for any Sanderson fan!
Gilded and Cursed by Marissa Meyer: A dark fantasy retelling of Rumpelstiltskin, in which the main characters face dark elves, monsters, capricious gods, and curses. Gilded, the first book in the duology, was by far my favorite, but both will grip you by both hands until you read the last page! Even then, it might not let go.
Fool’s Honor edited by Anne J. Hill and Lara E. Madden: A collection of fantasy and sci-fi stories riddled with tricks, twists, and fools! If you’re a fan of antiheroes, then you’ll especially enjoy this book; it’s definitely a unique collection!
Starling House by Alix E. Harrow: This book is all sharp teeth and jagged corners, and I was nervous that it would be too dark for me. But it wasn’t. The language was so raw and real, as were the characters, and once I struggled through some of the rough edges, I found a beating heart longing for love and a home. This story surprised me by being one of the best fantasy books I read in 2023.