Fantastical books and where to find them

Dec 20 2023

Wizard of Earthsea, Shadow and Bone, Piranesi
With the arrival of the Realms of Imagination exhibition in Hampshire’s libraries, it’s the perfect time to enter the realm of fantasy and dive into fascinating and mystical worlds. From journeys with hobbits and fights with dragons, to retellings of Medusa’s myth there’s so much to explore. Whether you’re a fantasy fanatic or just getting started, here are some of our favourite tales to inspire your next adventure.


Alice's Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll

Alice's Adventures in Wonderland – Lewis Carroll

In this children’s classic, Alice follows a waistcoat-wearing rabbit down a rabbit hole. Finding herself in Wonderland, an astonishing world of whimsy and magic, it becomes clear that all is not as it seems. As she tries to get back home, Alice meets a grinning Cheshire Cat, attends a Mad Hatter’s tea party, and comes up against the fearsome Queen of Hearts.

The Hobbit by J. R. R. Tolkien

The Hobbit - J. R. R. Tolkien

Decades before the events of The Lord of the Rings, Bilbo Baggins, a hobbit, lives comfortably in Bag End. But his peace is disturbed when a wizard named Gandalf and thirteen dwarves drag him into their plot to raid the hoard of a fearsome dragon, Smaug the Magnificent.

A Wizard of Earthsea by Ursula K Le Guin

A Wizard of Earthsea - Ursula K Le Guin

Ged was the greatest sorcerer in Earthsea. But in his quest for glory, he meddled with long-held secrets and let loose a terrible shadow upon the world. Follow the tale of how Ged became so powerful, befriended an ancient dragon, and crossed death's threshold to restore the balance.

Young Adult

Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo

Shadow and Bone – Leigh Bardugo

When her best friend is attacked, Alina reveals a hidden power that saves his life. This power in turn could be the key to freeing her country. Torn from everything she’s ever known, Alina is sent to the royal court to be trained as a member of the Grisha, a magical elite led by the brooding Darkling.

With the darkness looming and everyone depending on her, Alina must uncover the secrets of the Grisha and those she hides from even herself.

The Cruel Prince by Holly Black

The Cruel Prince - Holly Black

All in one day, Jude and her sisters are orphaned and whisked away to the royal court of Faerie by their parents’ assassin. As Jude grows up, she starts to realise that to fully become a part of her new world she’ll need to take part in the deception, betrayal, and shadows of the fey. All the while, the arrogant but charming Prince Cardan watches.


Piranesi by Susanna Clarke

Piranesi - Susanna Clarke

Piranesi has always lived in the House, recording its wonders. He is entirely alone apart from visits from his friend the Other twice a week he is alone. That is until messages written in chalk start to appear around the House. Piranesi’s life is thrown into turmoil as he tried to work out who is leaving the messages and whether they’re as much of a threat as the Other claims they are.

Good Omens by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett

Good Omens – Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett

Read the book that inspired the series with David Tennant and Michael Sheen.

Aziraphale, an angel, and Crowley, a demon, have lived on Earth since The Beginning. Despite being adversaries and living among humans, they’ve both become fond of their lives and aren’t actually looking forward to the coming Apocalypse. Disappointingly, it’s scheduled to arrive next Saturday teatime. Armageddon only happens once, and unfortunately someone appears to have misplaced the Antichrist.

 The Poppy War by R F Kuang

The Poppy War - R F Kuang

When Rin aces the test to find the most talented students in the Empire and wins entry to the most elite military school in her country, it’s a shock to everyone, least of all Rin herself.

But being a dark-skinned peasant girl isn’t easy. Whilst battling her classmate’s prejudice, Rin discovers that she can wield a lethal power and that the gods thought to be long dead are still alive. Suddenly, mastering these unearthly powers could mean more than just surviving school.

Stone Blind by Natalie Haynes

Stone Blind - Natalie Haynes

This retelling of the myth of Medusa follows her as she grows up as the only mortal in a family of gods. But when Poseidon commits a grave act in Athene's temple, the goddess seeks revenge, transforming Medusa into a creature with snakes for hair and a petrifying gaze.

Horrified by her appearance and her curse, Medusa isolates herself to prevent unintentional murder. That is, until Perseus begins his quest to fetch the head of a Gorgon.

If you read and enjoyed our suggestions, let us know on Facebook or Instagram, and sign up to our newsletter to keep up to date with the latest bookish news. Explore our Folk and Fairytales for Adults collection on Borrowbox for more suggestions. You can also begin your next adventure by joining one of our events as part of the Realms of Imagination exhibition from the British Library.