When you read for escape, fantasy choices can be a little slim. One of the strengths of fantasy is that these books often deal with serious issues plaguing our world. By placing them in a fictional setting, they give us new perspectives on old and ugly problems. But sometimes you just want to lose yourself in a book without being brought down by its heavy content. And FANGRRLS can help.
These books aren’t going to be strictly happy. They're often about a character’s journey, which can be painful. Instead, these books will capture you from the first page, providing an escape from everything happening in the world, and end in a way that will leave you feeling hopeful inside — even if everything isn’t perfect.
Witchmark by C. L. Polk
If anyone finds out that Miles Singer is a witch, he’ll lose everything. That’s why he practices quietly as a doctor, helping veterans from the brutal war between Aeland and Laneer. But when a patient arrives aware of Miles’s true identity and asks Miles to find his killer, everything changes in an instant. Polk has built a fascinating world here, and the way she drops the reader into it makes for a consuming and gripping read. The book has some heavy moments, as it deals with the after-effects of war and PTSD. But the wonderfully sweet romance between two men gives the story necessary heart that will lift your spirits while reading.
A Murder in Time by Julie McElwain
I’ve been gushing about this series for years. Now, three books in, it’s one of my favorites. The premise revolves around Kendra Donovan, a star agent of the FBI who has gone rogue and is chasing the man who murdered her team. Hot on his trail, she is unexpectedly thrown back in time to Georgian England, where she must learn to live under the restrictions placed on women at that time. But when someone is murdered, she can’t help but use her skills to figure it out. It might be weird to call a murder mystery escapist, but crime novels are actually some of my favorite types of reads. The thing I really love about this book is Kendra’s refusal to accept the expectations placed on her and constant fight for independence.
Heroine Complex by Sarah Kuhn
Whenever you need a happy ending, romance is the perfect genre to turn to. While there is often conflict along the way, you know that, in the end, two people who love each other will end up together. Not all romances are created equally, but Sarah Kuhn’s are some of my favorites. The first book, Heroine Complex, focuses on Evie Tanaka, the assistant to superhero Aveda Jupiter, and who has powers of her own she’s been hiding. The second, Heroine Worship, is about Aveda, while the last, Heroine's Journey, focuses on Evie’s sister. These books are so well written with such good characters, and you can’t help but feel good as everyone gets to know each other and face difficult truths about themselves.
The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater
Blue doesn’t share the paranormal gifts of her other women in her family. But she does her yearly duty and watches the souls of the people who will die in the next year pass by. But this year, it’s different. One of the souls is Gansey, a boy who attends a nearby private school. Blue meets Gansey and his friends in real life, and it turns out she can help them with their quest to find the final resting place of an ancient dead king. It’s hard to put into words why this four-book series is so good (and the summary above doesn’t do it justice). But the characters are incredibly well-developed, and the quest — and the idea behind it — will keep you hooked throughout the Raven Cycle.
The Girl of Fire and Thorns by Rae Carson
Princess Elisa may be the chosen one, but everyone around her knows that she will never do anything great. Elisa herself has internalized this disappointment and finds solace in food. But when Elisa is married and must fight against a great evil, she finds strength in herself she didn’t know she had. This is yet another first book in a trilogy (sorry not sorry), and the reason you will love it is because of the amazing transformation that Elisa undergoes. In the beginning, the reader feels nothing but pity for her. But by the end, as she fights for her people, her country, and herself, she becomes something else entirely. It’s hard to not fall in love with Elisa, and it’s why this book is so inspiring.
Dreadnought by April Daniels
Another superhero novel, Dreadnought is the first book in the Nemesis series. The book features Danny Tozar, who has secretly inherited the powers of a world-famous superhero. But her powers reveal Danny as her true self, and she hasn’t shared with anyone that she’s trans. This book can be tough at times — the people in Danny’s life aren’t always accepting of her true gender identity — but it’s so heartwarming to see Danny really come into her own and be unafraid to express who she is.
The Summer Prince by Alaya Dawn Johnson
This gorgeous novel features June, who is an artist with dreams of being famous one day. When she meets Enki, the Summer King, the possibilities seem endless. Together, the two seem unstoppable, but there’s just one problem: June knows Enki is going to die. The premise of this book may seem depressing, but watching June come into her own as an incredible fighter and find her independence and spirit is really amazing. She feels like a real teenager, and you’ll be hard-pressed not to become emotionally engaged with the story.
Leia, Princess of Alderaan by Claudia Gray
This may seem like a cop-out, and if you’re not a Star Wars fan, feel free to skip it. But Claudia Gray’s young Leia novel is beautifully written and captures the spirit of the princess we know and love so well. You’ll come for the familiar character, but you’ll want to say for the depiction of Alderaan, the beginning of Leia’s involvement in the Rebellion, and the way she learns how hard it is to be a leader. This book was like being wrapped in a blanket of joy, and though it has its difficult moments, it’s such a nice escape, even if you've never read a Star Wars novel before.