September is around the corner which means that Self-Published Fantasy Month, organized by our friends (Jason Aycock, Justine Bergman, Beth Tabler and Calvin Park) is about to kick off. To help you get ready, we offer you 15+ underrated self-published fantasy books we think you shouldn’t miss!
Disclaimer: we are not taking responsibility for accidental drownings due to toppling TBR mountains. Before we get down to business, here is a few answers you might have:
Well, originally we wanted to each have 5 recommendations which would have made a nice list of 15. Then as we ironed out the details and realised that some of the books we wanted to include wouldn’t meet the requirements, we decided to have a list of honourable mentions. Because, honestly, they deserve just as much attention.
What do we mean by underrated?
In this case, we decided to pick books that have less than 100 reviews on GoodReads. Though probably many on our lists have significantly less than that.
Now that’s out of the way, let’s see our lists!
Guns of Liberty by Jamie Mauchline
“First rule of piracy: be in the wrong place at the right time” Pirate Captain Genevieve Jones puts this rule to the test when she and her ship, the Heart of Gold, attack an airship carrying the recently betrothed Duchess of Albany, Lalita Laffel. When the final war of the Old Gods destroyed the seas, the Liberty Empire rose from the ruins and conquered the skies- but its control may be slipping as pirates roam, occultists dabble in profane magics left by dispossessed gods and disgruntled colonies ferment trouble.
Magic hunter Rachel Masters has been dispatched to Albany by Talon’s Inquisition, to recover a legendary and dangerous magical weapon left by the gods before it can be used against the Empire. When the archbishop refuses to allow Rachel access to the Sanctus Treasury, she realizes that she will need assistance from the Duchess Lalita, who unfortunately must first be rescued from the mercenary clutches of the elusive pirate Genevieve Jones.
Before turning to piracy, Genevieve served in the Liberty navy, but her experiences left her with old scars and a terrible burden to carry. Finding a rich bounty for her renegade crew is now Genevieve’s priority- but fate has set these strong women on a collision course as they uncover ancient rivalries and treacherous magic’s that threaten not only the Empire, but the world!
“Expect soaring airships, mystical swords, and a whole lot of exploding shrapnel making your heart race from one battle to another but also a heavy share of heart-aching moments as the story unravels bits and pieces of our characters’ pasts and the hurt that has chased them across the skies, as unrelenting as the wind.“
Lords of Asylum by Kevin Wright
Waylaid in the wilds, they left him for dead…
Sir Luther Slythe Krait is a bad man. He tried outrunning his past, but vengeance is swift and tireless and rides on unceasing wings.
Lord Pyotr Raachwald’s heir was murdered in a ritual rife with black witchcraft. His legacy is shattered. His purpose ruined. And with the killer at large, all he has left, revenge, lies too out of his reach.
Plunged into the civil war consuming Asylum City, Sir Luther is compelled into the service of his arch-nemesis, Lord Raachwald. Can Sir Luther play Lord Raachwald off against another power-mad lord long enough to unmask the truth behind the heir’s murder? Hunt down the killer? Bring him to justice? Or will he just die trying?
Waylaid in the wilds, they left him for dead, just not dead enough…
Read Lords of Asylum, the relentless fantasy thriller today.
“This is a book best savored like a good wine, letting it slowly dance across your palate to drop a fiery, welcomed warmth down your throat. A warmth that settles in your core and awakens your thirst for the next glass. Like Krait, you’ll be eager to take that next sip and quickly run to open the next installment of The Serpent Knight Saga.“
Cradle of Sea and Soil by Bernie Anés Paz
The Primordial Wound has festered with corruption since the birth of the world. The island tribes have warred against its spawn for just as long—and they are losing.
Burdened by the same spiritual affliction that drove the first Halfborn insane, Colibrí lives in exile with little more than her warrior oaths and her son. But when Colibrí discovers corrupted land hidden away by sorcery, those same oaths drive her to find answers in an effort to protect the very people who fear her.
Narune dreams of earning enough glory to show that he and his mother Colibrí are nothing like the Halfborn that came before them. Becoming a mystic will give him the strength he needs, but first, Narune will need to prove himself worthy in a trial of skill and honor.
Together, Colibrí and Narune must learn to become the champions their people need—and face the curse threatening to scour away their spirits with fury.
“I loved many things about this story, but some of my favorites were the gracious introduction of LGBTQ+ elements (Colibrí is bisexual, or at least has relationships with more than one gender; Narune’s other friend, Ixchel, has two fathers), the wild chases across huge root-roads, the wondrous mythical influences, and the considerations of family and consent that make this story stand out in a genre that can make it difficult to do so.”
Birth of the Dawnhawk by Z. Apollo & M. J. Northwood
Energy binds everyone in the great continent of Amasia. That’s what the most religious would have people believe. Energy can be shaped. Energy can be destroyed. Many in the world have the ability to energy shape, controlling the elements around them in any way they see fit. However, only five are Blessed with unique power. The power to defeat Insanity.
For over a 1000 years the Mother’s Blessing has watched over Amasia, entrapping the Insanity, as it’s passed down from generation to generation in the form of the Blessed. They’re powerful. They’re impossible, and they’re the world’s only hope.
It was said that there would be five at one time with remarkable powers that would one day come together and save the world from Insanity. Throughout history there had been many famous individuals all over the continent with the marking to show their Blessing, whether they were an immortal of the High Vilmar or a Drakonian on the Birthing Isles. These Blessings passed down from generation to generation, never truly being used for their purpose, until now.
Birth Of A Dawnhawk is centred around Avila Dawnhawk, the famous daughter to the ruler of the sacred city Hassun. The soft-hearted princess is returning home from her years of studying and training in the mountains to attend her younger brother prince Azai’s royal energy-binding.
Avilas Blessing had given her amazing abilities but with these abilities came a world of responsibilities. All the responsibilities that were thrust upon her came from beliefs long passed through the generations. Beliefs that the people gifted with this power would need to protect all life someday from the eternal threat of Insanity.
Living in a world where people could shape the very essence of their environment would have been treacherous for anyone with this power as many thought it could be harnessed or even harvested, as Avila would soon come to find out.
On the night of the energy binding Avila is unable to sleep and instead takes a walk through the palace following the shrill calls of her family’s ageing pet dawnhawk. What she discovers will forever change the course of her life. After a joyous occasion turns into a treacherous night of bloody betrayal, her life would never be the same again.
With the hopes of generations of people on her shoulders and with Insanity beginning to take root in the world once again, corrupting the hearts and minds of the innocent, will Avila Dawnhawk soar when she leaves the nest and follow her destiny? Or will she be grounded by a fear of flight?
“I loved the magic system, the representation of anxiety, the exploration of themes of sorrow and anger, and the exciting trip through manifold landscapes with its unexpected happenings.
This made Birth of the Dawnhawk a solid introduction to a new world that left me wishing for the next installment in the series.”
The Jealousy of Jalice by Jesse Nolan Bailey
The Realms have split apart, the Stones of Elation have been hidden, and warnings of dokojin drift among the tribes.
The land and its people are corrupted. The Sachem, chief of the Unified Tribes, is to blame.
It is this conviction that drives Annilasia and Delilee to risk their lives. Afraid of the aether magic he wields, they enact a subtler scheme: kidnap his wife. In her place, Delilee will pretend to be the chieftess and spy on the Sachem.
Unaware of this plot against her husband, Jalice is whisked away by Annilasia. Pleading with her captor proves futile, and she rejects Annilasia’s delusional accusations against the chief. After all, the Sachem has brought peace to the land.
Yet a dangerous truth hides in Jalice’s past. As she and Annilasia flee through a forest of insidious threats, they must confront the evil plaguing the tribes and the events that unleashed it.
“Our two mains, Jalice and Annilasia, are allowed their flaws without being villainized or minimized — Jalice with her constant tears and Annilasia her rage. They couldn’t be more different and it was refreshing to read a story where women get to be monsters without the usual brutalization reserved for them.
At its end is a message of unearthing all the ugly parts of ourselves to carve a way forward and making peace with the mistakes we once made to right what that way still holds.”
Gedlund by William Ray
To the north sits Thyesten, the ancient Lich King of Gedlund. He has banished death, and for countless centuries ruled a land where ghosts, vampires, and other wicked undead keep men in feudal servitude. Elsewhere in the world, human civilization has flourished, and with rifle and iron rail, the power of the Elves has been banished at last. Foremost among the great modern nations is the Verin Empire, and with their prosperity threatened by forces the Elves once kept in check, they find themselves rushing headlong into war with Thyesten’s Kingdom of the Dead.
Tammen Gilmot is a young soldier sent to defend the Verin Empire’s colonial frontier who finds himself swept up into this reckless new campaign, pitting rifle and cannon against Gedlund’s ruthless Everlords and their legions of the dead. In the goblin-infested southern frontier, the sprawling metropolis of Gemmen, and the haunted northern kingdom of Gedlund, the modern world wars against the past as Tammen tries to find his place in the forming of history.
Gedlund is the story of a young man’s rise to responsibility amid battles between humanity and the terrors of the distant past. Drawing inspiration from Lord of the Rings, Catch-22 and our own late 19th century, William Ray’s debut novel features a complex and nuanced world of memorable characters and unique perspectives on life in worlds of classic fantasy.
“So as military fantasys go, I found a lot to like in this one. There’s a lot of battles which get progressively bigger until the finale. There are organising troops, gun use, and marching – some of my favorite parts were the parade row marching and just any of the scenes where they had to keep or use a tempo. I especially loved the use of sound combined with the visuals to bring the scenes alive.”
A Ritual of Bone by Lee C Conley
“Only valour and steel can stand against the rising dead”
Arnar is a land of warriors, its people as stalwart as the stones themselves. In a land of dark forests and ancient hill forts, a forgotten evil is awoken by curious minds.
The Great Histories and the Sagas say nothing of this evil, long passed from the memory of even the studious scholars of the College. For centuries, the scholars of Arnar have kept these records and preserved the knowledge and great deeds of a proud people. The story of these peoples forever chronicled in the Sagas of the Great Histories.
But now the evil spreads and the dead walk in its wake, terrible creatures roam the night and even the spirits are restless. The Dead Sagas could perhaps be the final chapters of these great records.
Many threads entwine to tell this Saga, interweaving the tales of those who played their part in the search for answers and ultimately their fight for survival. Amid plague, invasion and terror, the inexorable rise of the dead sends a kingdom scrabbling to its knees.
This Dark Fantasy Epic combines dark malign horror and gritty survival adventure as the Dead Sagas unfold in a world where honour and renown is all, where beasts and savages lurk in the wilderness, and where sword, axe and shield is all that stands between the living and the grasping hands of the dead.
“What this one does right– is atmosphere. The author laid the groundwork, he gave us a creepy location, he gave us some people to care about, and then he set loose the horde, a little at a time. It’s the perfect horror formula.”
The Woven Ring by M. D. Presley
A fantasy reimagining of the American Civil War, The Woven Ring pits muskets against magic, massive war machines against mind readers, and glass sabers against soldiers in psychic exoskeletons.
In exile since the civil war that tore the nation of Newfield apart, former spy and turncoat Marta Childress wants nothing more than to quietly live out her remaining days in the West. But then her manipulative brother arrives with one final mission: Transport the daughter of a hated inventor deep into the East. Forced to decide between safely delivering the girl and assassinating the inventor, Marta is torn between ensuring the fragile peace and sparking a second civil war.
Aided by an untrustworthy Dobra and his mysterious mute companion, Marta soon discovers that dark forces, human and perhaps the devil herself, seek to end her quest into the East.
“The world building in this is top-notch, everything from the interesting and very cool magic system, down to how the lights work, is intricately detailed. The author deserves kudos for that alone but then add in that tight plotting and that damned good ending…this almost got five stars from me.”
The Origin of Birds in the Footprints of Writing by Raymond St. Elmo
Clarence St. Claire is a programmer who cherishes an orderly life. His motto: ‘work is important; people, not so much’. His determination to be The Most Serious Person on the Planet is threatened when he becomes haunted by a mysterious manuscript from his past: 300 pages of possibly random bird tracks. Risking his career and self-possession, St. Claire dares to pursue the manuscript against the opposition of hackers, the NSA, the ghosts of famous writers and doubts of his own sanity.
Lost in a maze of bird-prints and their possible meanings, St. Claire determines to summon the late writer Jorge Louis Borges to help with the translation. He will dream Borges into existence, exactly as Borges wrote of doing. But this act stirs the opposition of a secret order of past writers, who may, possibly, have their own agenda. The duel between St. Claire’s reality and theirs leads to a final encounter in The Dark Library, before the dread conclave known as The Tribunal of Dreams.
‘Origins’ is a book about books, about magic realism and artificial intelligence, virtual reality and languages, and how sensible people wind up in strange situations by strangely sensible steps. It is built of the words books whisper to each other alone after the library has closed. It ends as it must: with the hero tossed into a pit by Edgar Alan Poe.
Kidding. I mean, that last does happen but the final ending is the hero finding the answer and getting the girl, as well as his sanity back. Mostly back.
“And that, I think, is where this story really shone for me- with this character who was a total mess but who persevered. And also with the underlying humor and conversationalist style to the writing it was such an enjoyable read, even when half the time, I wasn’t sure how much of the events in this were real, and how much of it was Clarence descending down the path to cutting off his own ear. But the whole time, I enjoyed this crazy, madcap story.”
The Half-Killed by Quenby Olson
Dorothea Hawes has no wish to renew contact with what lies beyond the veil. After an attempt to take her own life, she has retired into seclusion, but as the wounds on her body heal, she is drawn back into a world she wants nothing more than to avoid.
She is sought out by Julian Chissick, a former man of God who wants her help in discovering who is behind the gruesome murder of a young woman. But the manner of death is all too familiar to Dorothea, and she begins to fear that something even more terrible is about to unleash itself on London.
And so Dorothea risks her life and her sanity in order to save people who are oblivious to the threat that hovers over them. It is a task that forces her into a confrontation with her own lurid past, and tests her ability to shape events frighteningly beyond her control.
“The writing is very visual, the language, setting and all-around atmosphere transports you to an early London and you can almost smell the stink from the river, and hear the echo of horse hooves clip-clopping off the buildings. It’s a perfect setting for a creepy story about the paranormal.”
Beneath Cruel Fathoms by Anela Deen
After a violent storm destroys her ship, Isaura Johansdottir knows better than to hope she’ll be rescued from Eisland’s vast Failock Sea. Adrift and alone, her plans to start over lost, it’s a tragic conclusion after the disastrous end of her marriage—until she’s saved by Leonel, one of the merfolk, a creature long believed extinct. In repayment for her life, Leonel enlists her help to investigate the Failock’s mysterious and deadly plague of squalls. But when Isaura discovers Eisland’s ruthless new Lord commands the storms, her life will be in more danger on land than it ever was at sea.
As guardian of the Fathoms, Leonel must find the cause of unnatural storms ravaging the tidal currents and destroying the sea life. There are rumors of dark magic stirring in the Orom Abyss, the resting place of old, vanquished gods who tried to submerge the land millennia ago. Yet without proof, no one in King Ægir’s court will listen to him. And if it’s discovered he broke the Blue Laws to save a shipwrecked landweller, he might not survive the consequences.
As storms spread, Leonel and Isaura uncover secrets as forbidden as the bond that grows between them. Betrayal lurks in the restless sea, and when ancient powers lay siege to Eisland’s coast, the truth may be drowned along with everything else.
“If you are looking for an emotionally thrilling read with romance, mythical sea creatures and a vivid dark fantasy setting, then Beneath Cruel Fathoms is your book.”
Books and Bone by Victoria Corva
A Librarians-and-Necromancy Fantasy with Small Town Charm in a City of the Dead
The others believe in blood and bone. Ree believes in books.
She manages the libraries and draws maps for the denizens of her hometown, a secret society of necromancers hiding in a sprawling underground crypt. Though they look down on her for not practicing their craft, Ree has bigger ambitions than raising the dead. She’s going to resurrect therianthropy, the ancient magic of shapeshifting. Or at least — she’ll do it if it really exists. And if she can find the books that prove it.
But Smythe, a chatty historian from the world above, stumbles into the crypt and takes a curse meant for Ree. Now she has to find a way to save him, keep the townsfolk off her back, and convince her necromancer parents that shapeshifting is a viable career path.
Ree is certain that if she and Smythe combine their scholarly skill sets, they’ll find the right books to solve their problems. But Ree’s search for power might put the entire town in danger, and her father and the other townsfolk want Smythe dead lest he reveal their home to a world that hates them.
“Although its setting not exactly cheery, there is something utterly charming in this book that just won me over. If you are looking for something unique containing magic, death people, queer characters and twists that you never saw coming, then you are in for a treat with Books and Bone. I, for one, can’t wait to learn how the story goes and what else Ree can accomplish. Oh, and did I mention the kick-ass libraries?”
The Lore of Prometheus by Graham Austin-King
John Carver has three rules: Don’t drink in the daytime, don’t gamble when the luck has gone, and don’t talk to the dead people who come to visit.
It has been almost five years since the incident in Kabul. Since the magic stirred within him and the stories began. Fleeing the army, running from the whispers, the guilt, and the fear he was losing his mind, Carver fell into addiction, dragging himself through life one day at a time.
Desperation has pulled him back to Afghanistan, back to the heat, the dust, and the truth he worked so hard to avoid. But there are others, obsessed with power and forbidden magics, who will stop at nothing to learn the truth of his gifts. Abducted and chained, Carver must break more than his own rules if he is to harness this power and survive.
“The Lore of Prometheus is a shockingly wicked dark tale of the power of the human mind. The most dangerous monster of them all. If you still wonder if this book is for you, let me tell you what you can expect: characters far from being perfect, struggling with their own demons; tension from page one to the last; plenty of action; a few things to think about; an unhealthy dose of torture, and a few laughs, because who says people can’t go down with a good laugh?”
The Prince of Cats by Daniel E. Olesen
To stay alive, Jawad must succeed where all others have failed: he must catch the Prince of Cats. More legend than man, the Prince is draped in rumours. He can steal the silver teeth from your mouth in the blink of a smile. He is a ghost to walls and vaults, he laughs at locks, and Jawad must capture him before powerful people lose their patience and send the young rogue to the scaffold.
Ever the opportunist, Jawad begins his hunt while carrying out his own schemes. He pits the factions of the city against each other, lining his own pockets in the process and using the Prince as a scapegoat. This is made easy as nobody knows when or where the Prince will strike, or even why.
As plots collide, Jawad finds himself pressured from all sides. Aristocrats, cutthroats, and the Prince himself is breathing down his neck. Unless Jawad wants a knife in his back or an appointment with the executioner, he must answer three questions: Who is the Prince of Cats, what is his true purpose, and how can he be stopped?
“There is something charming about The Prince of Cats despite its flaws, and the fact that it’s not a heartwarming story. It’s about revenge, freedom, relationships, keeping your enemies closer than friends. It has a sort of Arabian Nights vibe about it, especially the shepherd’s story. I recommend to check this book out if you need a different setting, like to read about a thief, who is far from being perfect, or invulnerable.”
Some Distant Sunrise by Elliott Downing
“What have you ever done that felt better than this?”
A former DJ who lost everything to heroin addiction is slowly rebuilding his life when his ex-girlfriend seeks him out to offer him a second chance at their relationship. But the fresh start she hopes to make with him has one catch: She died of an overdose four months earlier, and she’s come to talk him into joining her…
Some Distant Sunrise is a powerful, gritty dark-fantasy novella about junkies and ghosts, music and suicide, obsession and regret, and living through what remains after everything you’ve loved is gone.
“Some Distant Sunrise is a powerfully emotional, dark tale of addiction, second chances, choices and life. One, the writing makes even more real, where you can almost feel the needle’s cool, metallic touch on your arm, the biting chill of the night and feel the pressure of the world as it closes on you, taste the desperation in the air. I can’t recommend it enough to people who are looking for a short, thoughtful, well written book giving a glimpse into the life of those who struggle daily with addiction and personal demons. You’ll walk away with your emotions in a turmoil and a heavy heart, but damn, you won’t regret it one bit.”
As we mentioned above, we have a couple of books we’d heartily recommend as underrated self-published fantasy books, but for one reason or another didn’t make the list. The titles are linked to the books’ GR pages.
- Banebringer by Carol A. Park
- Heart of a Lion by Stephen Zimmer
- Path of Ruin by Tim Paulson
- Red and Black by Nancy O’Toole Meservier
- Sorcerous Rivalry by Kayleigh Nicol
- Symphony of the Wind by Steven McKinnon
- The City Screams by Phil Williams
- The Lost War by Justin Lee Anderson
- The Wolf Queen by Cerece Rennie Murphy
- The Wolf We Feed by P. A. Shappard
- Windcatcher by A. J. Norfield
We hope you will give a go to all or some of these underrated self-published fantasy books! They definitely deserve some love. And please – if you didn’t yet – check out Self-Published Fantasy Month as it’s a great month long event to celebrate all things self-published! They also planned out some cool events this year such as a photo challenge and a read along!