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Underrated Sci-Fi and Fantasy Gems You Shouldn’t Miss

With the influx of new sci-fi, fantasy, and horror books hitting shelves every week, it’s easy to miss a few good books here and there. There are more than a few well-hewn jewels that deserve a spot on your to-read pile. Thankfully, it’s never too late to pick up a good book. Whether a little-known sister-series to your favorite sci-fi chronicle or perhaps a piece of speculative fiction that slipped past your radar, the books below are a few of our favorite underrated and overlooked fantasy and sci-fi gems.

  1. 1

    Woman on the Edge of Time

    In this masterpiece of speculative fiction, Marge Piercy focuses on Connie Ramos, a woman who bears witness to two possible futures: one an egalitarian utopia, the other grotesque society where humans are considered nothing more than chattel. Connie, who may or may not be losing her sanity, could hold the key that determines which of these worlds will come to pass.

    Woman on the Edge of Time Book Cover Picture
  2. 2

    Prince of Thorns

    If you’re looking for a little grimdark to hold you over while George R.R. Martin finishes up The Winds of Winter, The Broken Empire Series is just the ticket. Brutal and relentlessly harrowing, the series tells the story of Jorg Ancrath, a prince who was driven from his home following the murder of his brother and mother. The Broken Empire charts his volatile quest for revenge.

    Prince of Thorns Book Cover Picture
  3. 3

    Daughter of the Empire

    This lesser-known but no less engrossing piece of The Riftwar Cycle chronicles Mara of Acoma’s rise to the most powerful woman in Kelewan. With no shortage of the sort of adventure and intrigue that drew fans to the Riftwar Cycle, The Empire Trilogy is well worth a look.

    Daughter of the Empire Book Cover Picture
  4. 4

    Heroes Die

    Heroes Die centers on Caine, known as the Blade of Tyshalle in the land of Ankhana and considered one of that world’s deadliest combatants. Back on Earth, he is simply Hari Michaelson, a man who, despite his fame, remains stuck in society’s rigid caste system — that is, until the disappearance of his estranged wife catapults him into a deadly game of cat and mouse.

    Heroes Die Book Cover Picture
  5. 5

    The Devourers

    He’s drawn comparisons to Neil Gaiman, Margaret Atwood, and China Mieville — if you aren’t familiar with newcomer Indra Das yet, you should be. His debut novel, The Devourers, is a seamless and surreal blend of Indian folklore and legend, weird fiction, and adventure. It centers on a professor in Kolkata, India who sets about transcribing a collection of documents recounting the saga of an otherworldly race that spans centuries.

    The Devourers Book Cover Picture
  6. 6

    The Mark of Ran

    This imaginative adventure centers on a world long abandoned by its Creator, a world that was once home to an ancient and powerful race. A young man named Rol who was raised in a fishing village, but who may be descended from that ancient race, stands accused of witchcraft. He is driven from his village and begins an epic journey that will forever change his life.

    The Mark of Ran Book Cover Picture
  7. 7

    The Lion of Senet

    The Second Sons Trilogy takes place on the world of Ranadon, where there is no night thanks to the two suns that shine on the planet. Featuring an expansive cast of characters, the story largely centers on Dirk, the second son of the Duke of Elcast, as he navigates the shifting alliances, intrigue, and palpable dangers that mark life beneath Ranadon’s unrelenting suns.

    The Lion of Senet Book Cover Picture
  8. 8

    The Bone Doll’s Twin

    The thought-provoking Tamir Triad trilogy from Lynn Flewelling deals primarily with the hostilities between the fantasy nations of Skala and Plenimar. The series presents the ancient rivalry through the lens of Tamir, a prophesied queen who, through magical intervention, grew up as a boy named Tobin in order to avoid the wrath of her uncle — a king who has murdered all women in the royal line to ensure the succession of his only son.

    The Bone Doll's Twin Book Cover Picture
  9. 9

    The Sparrow

    This fascinating novel is a challenging and thought-provoking exploration of the nature of good and evil. The novel follows a Jesuit priest and linguist who leads a scientific expedition to make contact with an extraterrestrial civilization. What initially begins as a mission of hope devolves into a horrifying debacle through a series of misunderstandings. A beautiful and profound read.

    The Sparrow Book Cover Picture
  10. 10

    The House of Shattered Wings

    Set against the backdrop of post-apocalyptic Paris, the Dominion of the Fallen series imagines an arcane war waged for the soul of the City of Light. The novels focus on the great Houses struggling for dominion over Paris and the three people — a young but powerful magician, an alchemist, and a naïve fallen angel — at the center of the conflict.

    The House of Shattered Wings Book Cover Picture
  11. 11

    The Best of All Possible Worlds

    Karen Lord has drawn favorable comparisons to SFF heavyweights like Ursula K. Le Guin and China Mieville, and The Best of All Possible Worlds makes it abundantly clear why. An alien race loses its homeland in an unprovoked attack and is forced to settle on a new world among a foreign species and culture. Soon after, a man and woman from these clashing societies are drawn together to save what’s left of their vanishing cultures. The Best of All Possible Worlds is equal parts love story and character study, exploring the ever-timely issues of culture, social change, and assimilation.

    The Best of All Possible Worlds Book Cover Picture
  12. 12

    The Hidden City

    This epic fantasy from author Michelle West follows the intricate tale of the battle for control of the most powerful of the ruling Houses of Essalieyan Empire, House Terafin. The series is told largely from the perspective of Jewel Markess, a remarkable young woman whose visions may be key to saving the realm and all that she knows.

    The Hidden City Book Cover Picture
  13. 13

    The Speed of Dark

    In this provocative and poignant novel, Elizabeth Moon imagines a near future free of disease and genetic defects. The protagonist, a high-functioning autistic man named Lou, was born too early to reap the medical breakthroughs that so greatly impacted the society around him. When he is offered an opportunity for an experimental cure, Lou must decide whether he will still be himself if cured, and if the world will still be as he knows it.

    The Speed of Dark Book Cover Picture
  14. 14

    The Grass Dancer

    Inspired by Native American myth and legend and infused with magical realism, Susan Power — a member of the Standing Rock Sioux tribe — creates a decades-spanning tale of broken families, romance, violence and redemption centered around a North Dakota reservation.

    The Grass Dancer Book Cover Picture
  15. 15

    House of Stairs

    In this underappreciated page-turner, a group of five teenage orphans are ushered into a strange building. It has no walls, no ceiling or floors. Instead it is filled with endless flights of stairs that all lead towards a strange red machine. House of Stairs is a slow burn, but it is nonetheless thought-provoking in its layered exploration of social dynamics.

    House of Stairs Book Cover Picture
  16. 16

    The Gone-Away World

    The Gone-Away World is a hilariously incongruous mix of post-apocalypse, kung-fu, buddy comedy, and war story — and it works. Centering on an unnamed narrator and his best friend, the story sends the martial arts-trained duo on a perilous mission to stave off world domination in a wasteland populated by ninjas, pirates, and (of all things) mimes.

    The Gone-Away World Book Cover Picture
  17. 17

    Od Magic

    Brendan Vetch has a peculiar gift — an innate ability to connect with the agricultural world. It is a gift that has isolated him throughout his life — until he receives an invitation to serve as gardener at the magical school of the wizard Od. But there may be more to Od’s invitation and Brendan’s powers than he could ever imagine.

    Od Magic Book Cover Picture

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