My Favorite *Stand-alone* Fantasy Novels Of All Time

6 fantasy novels that aren’t part of a series — for the times you can’t commit.

My Favorite *Stand-alone* Fantasy Novels Of All Time
Photo by 童 彤 on Unsplash

My Favorite Stand-Alone Fantasy Novels Of All Time

6 fantasy novels that aren’t part of a series — for the times you can’t commit.

Fantasy fiction is my favorite genre.

I love losing myself in the fictional worlds created by writers and marveling at the strange rules, mythical creatures, and the various laws governing magic in them.

Most of the truly great fantasy books are in the form of a series — at least a trilogy or longer. I’ll be honest, they are not easy to read. Especially if the story spans ten 1000+ page books. By the time you finish the seventh, you’ve probably already forgotten what happened in the first (Steven Erikson, I’m looking at you!).

While committing to a series can be rewarding in its own way, a reader isn’t always in the mindset of mentally preparing themselves to read book after book set in the same world to find out what finally happens to the characters.

For times like these, I have listed six of the most intriguing fantasy novels that are complete in themselves. Some of these (Elantris, to be specific) have a sequel, but they are not mandatory to get the most out of the story.

Some of the books mentioned here are well-known bestsellers; others, not as much. I hope every reader finds at least one book suited to their taste.

(Note: The links mentioned in this article are affiliate links. If you choose to purchase these books through these links, it will help me earn a small amount of money — at no extra cost to you. Thanks!)

1. The Devourers by Indra Das

Image: Goodreads

A tale of magic set in my country of birth with two parallel storylines — one happening today and another several hundred years ago.

The premise had me hooked right from the first page: A college professor, Alok, encounters a mysterious stranger with a bizarre confession and an extraordinary story that takes him back to seventeenth-century Mughal India. Mesmerized by the stranger’s unfinished tale, Alok finds himself compelled to do anything to find out what happens next. At the stranger’s behest, he even agrees to transcribe a collection of battered scrolls, weathered parchments, and once-living skins. What happens next is a revelation that will shatter the world as he knows it.

“To tell stories of the past to children who walk into the future is a task both noble and taxing.”

The Indian flavor was tangible throughout the story. The mythical creatures mentioned here are familiar because this is what my grandmother used to tell me stories of when I was a child — about rakashas, devis, djinn, Banbibi, Bandurga, and Bandevi. The Devourers is a twist on Indian folklore and an absolutely delightful representation of gender issues, rape, and the open embracing of the fluidity in gender and sexuality.

Why you should read it

On the surface, this is the story of shape-shifters, but I am sure this book would appeal to all readers. The writing is brilliant, so much so, that there wasn’t a moment I felt I was out of danger.

I recommend this book because, apart from the superb narration, it asks for introspection from its readers.

What does it mean to be who we are? What made us that way?

What choices might we make that may contradict the values we hold so dear?

This is a book that left me with more questions than answers, a feeling that is not easy to convey in a review. I wish everyone would read it for the brilliant prose and the strong message at its core.

Purchase the book here.

2. Good Omens by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett

Image: Goodreads

When it comes to infusing humor in fantasy, there are very few authors who can outdo Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman. The premise is intriguing: Judgement Day has been scheduled and the apocalypse is due to arrive next Saturday, just after tea. The story traces the predicament of Aziraphale, a somewhat fussy angel, and Crowley, a fast-living demon who have lived on Earth since The Beginning and have developed a grudging fondness for the planet, its inhabitants, and even each other. Another problem plagues the duo: someone appears to have misplaced the Antichrist.

“Armageddon only happens once, you know. They don’t let you go around again until you get it right.”

Why you should read it

This book cannot be classified as merely a fantasy, humor, or fiction. Beneath the hilarious quips, lies a profound philosophical treatise, exploring good versus evil, the existence of free will, and the impact of war, pollution, and organized religion on humanity.

The best part of this book is how it takes concepts we all are familiar with and maybe even fearful of — the possibility of imminent death, for one — and presents them as comedy.

Purchase the book here.

3. Elantris by Brandon Sanderson

Image: Goodreads

This book revolves around a young prince cursed to the tragedy that is Elantris — the once-glorious capital of Arelon, now reduced to ruins as it continues to be plagued by an unknown curse. The land is depleted of its magic and its residents are plunged into the eternal suffering of immortality with the inability to heal. Where a simple bump to the arm can become an eternal pain that never leaves you. When the pain gets too much to bear, it sends you into a delirious limbo.

“To live is to have worries and uncertainties. Keep them inside, and they will destroy you for certain — leaving behind a person so callused that emotion can find no root in his heart.”

Why you should read it

Elantris is the debut novel of Brandon Sanderson, and remains, to this day, a remarkably unique book. What stands out is the intricate world-building, the in-depth characterization, and a steady build-up to the climax.

There are times when the narrative would have you thinking, “It can’t get any better than this”. Those would be the exact moments when you would be absolutely wrong.

Purchase the book here.

4. The House on the Cerulean Sea by TJ Klune

Image: Goodreads

40-year-old Linus Baker, a caseworker for the Department in Charge of Magical Youth, is asked to visit an orphanage on an island and prepare a report on whether the home is safe for the six extraordinary children who live there.

What begins as a series of misadventures turns into heartwarming banter and some amusing, light-hearted moments spent between the children, their Master, Arthur, and our protagonist.

Sometimes our prejudices color our thoughts when we least expect them to. If we can recognize that, and learn from it, we can become better people.”

When I finished reading this book, I closed it gently, as if the pages were sentient and might be bruised. It was hard to immediately identify the sensation in my chest. It took a while, but when it hit me, there was no escaping it: an exultant, bubbling joy pushed back immediately by sorrow that hadn’t yet sunk its claws in deep enough in my heart — all leading to a rawness that only a novel like The House on the Cerulean Sea can leave behind.

Why you should read it

This is a story about accepting your imperfections and learning to live with them. About getting back up on your feet in a world designed to keep pushing you down. About finding kin among strangers, and understanding that you don’t need to be tied by blood to be part of a family.

Purchase the book here.

5. Tigana by Guy Gavriel Kay

Image: Goodreads

This is the story of a place that ceased to exist. A place swallowed on the map by hungry neighbors, swept away by winds of civil war and no sign remains to bear witness to what once was. But, the people of this vanished land survived. And so, they kept cultivating their language, their arts, their traditions, their culture. They kept nurturing their collective memory in the hopes that this would let them resurrect the land some generations later. But what if a curse takes away even that — all the memories and all the hope?

Tigana is the magical story of a beleaguered land struggling to be free. It is the tale of a people so cursed by the black sorcery of a cruel despotic king that even the name of their once-beautiful homeland cannot be spoken or remembered…

“The lesson of her days, Dianora thought, was simply this: that love was not enough. Whatever the songs of the troubadours might say. Whatever hope it might seem to offer, love was simply not enough to bridge the chasm in her world.”

Why you should read it

You will fall in love with the effortless ease with which the author creates the characters. They seem like real people with complex motivations. The plot is raw and powerful and the narrative flows with a fineness that makes it a pure joy to lose yourself in. This book will leave you with a tender warmth in your heart — a feeling you’d want to hold on to for as long as you possibly can.

Purchase the book here.

6. The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

Image: Goodreads

A magical tale about a circus that arrives unannounced at night and houses a collection of utterly unique experiences. Its black-and-white striped canvas tents are full of breathtaking amazement. Inside, there are two magicians bound by destiny into a competition where only one will be left standing. The only problem: the contestants aren’t aware of the rules, or even how the victory is going to be determined. Things start getting complicated when they develop feelings for each other.

“I am tired of trying to hold things together that cannot be held. Trying to control what cannot be controlled. I am tired of denying myself what I want for fear of breaking things I cannot fix. They will break no matter what we do.”

This is a dark, haunting, and powerful tale, with some glorious descriptions enriched by the accompanying illustrations. The prose is breath-taking and the slow-burn romance between the protagonists is brilliantly done. What makes this book truly stand out is the setting — so mysterious and magical, it keeps you entangled till the very end.

Why you should read it

The story is like looking into a kaleidoscope: every element blending perfectly together to give a picture so vivid, it’s bound to stay with you for a long time. You’ll fall in love with the characters — so multifaceted and morally ambiguous. This book will take you on a roller-coaster ride of intense emotions, each more overwhelming than the last.

Purchase the book here.

For more book reviews, follow me on Goodreads.

Every week, I send out an uplifting, inspirational story. Join 1280+ readers on my email list to get exclusive access.

3 Fantasy Fiction Books That Delve Deep Into Human Psychology
Who says you only need to read non-fiction to understand how the human mind works?
5 Most Magical Books to Read if You Loved Harry Potter
Young adult fantasy fiction recommendations
5 Books That Will Blow Your Mind
You’ll be thinking about the story for several days after you finish reading!