If you love fantasy and science fiction books, you already love N.K. Jemisin, reigning queen of all things speculative. She made history as the first woman of color to win a coveted Hugo Award for her novel The Fifth Season, and then she made history again as the first author to win another Hugo Award the very next year for the sequel, The Obelisk Gate. She’s also the author of the acclaimed Inheritance Trilogy, and her writing is about to hit the small screen as an epic TV drama. Her books deal with dangerous dreams and gods who walk the Earth, women who can control seismic activity and semi-apocalyptic fantasy realms. She writes fascinating characters and builds worlds that are more than just medieval Europe with a coat of fantasy paint on top. She is, in short, the best. Go read her books, if you haven’t yet. But if you’ve already read all things Jemisin, and you’re still craving some fierce adventures and extensive world-building, check out these other excellent fantasy and science fiction novels to tide you over.
After all, while Jemisin is undeniably awesome, she is by no means the only author writing smart, inventive sci-fi and fantasy out there today:
The Guardians have ruled over the world of the Hundred for a long, long time. But these powerful gods are losing their authority, and an all-devouring horde of fanatics is sweeping through the land, threatening to destroy all in their path. An epic adventure of gods, heroines, and giant eagles, Spirit Gate is masterfully crafted and a surefire hit for all Jemisin fans.
Moon is a shape-shifter. He is able to transform himself into a fantastical winged creature. For years, however, he has had to hide himself, to hide what he is—until he discovers another of his kind. Suddenly, Moon finds himself thrust into the impossible world of his newfound kin, where he might just be the only thing standing between his people and total extinction.
Jevick has always heard tales of Olondria, where books are commonplace and life is close to perfect. When Jevick finally gets the chance to visit the distant land himself, though, he finds that Olondrian life is a little more complex than he might have thought: two cults battle for total control, the nation is on the cusp of war, and he’s now being haunted by the ghost of a young, illiterate girl.
Everfair takes us back in time to Belgium’s disastrous colonization of the Congo. This time, however, the Congo has steam technology. They also have Everfair, the Utopian haven that has slipped out from King Leopold II’s grasp. Through multiple perspectives and some brilliant re-imagining of history, Nisi Shawl spins an entirely original steampunk tale of fighting for freedom in the face of a colonial superpower.
Paama has finally left her gluttonous fool of a husband. In doing so, however, she has attracted the attention of the djombi — the “dying ones.” They present her with the Chaos Stick, a powerful gift for manipulating the forces of the world. But with a powerful gift comes powerful danger, and Paama must face the wrath of one particular djombi who’d rather keep such power for himself.
If you’re a fan of Jemisin’s apocalyptic Fifth Season, then you’ll probably enjoy Hurley’s catastrophic Mirror Empire. This world, too, is on the verge of a recurring cataclysm. As nations fracture and invaders decimate whole cities, one troubled orphan must stay alive long enough to uncover her own past as the world erupts into chaos around her.
This is England, but not as we know it. In the England of Zen Cho’s imagination, a young man named Zacharias Wythe has just been named Sorcerer Royal of the Unnatural Philosophers— and not all the philosophers are too happy about that. Zacharias is a freed slave, and not a high-born magician at all. But it’s up to Zacharias to save their order all the same, because something or someone is drying up all of the magic in England.
Maia, the Emperor’s youngest, half-goblin son, has lived his entire life in exile. His royal family has rejected him, and he has no standing at court. That is, until an airship “accident” kills his father and three older brothers, leaving Maia the unfortunate heir to a court filled with intrigue, luxury, and plots to get him off the throne by any means necessary.
Former Princess Samarkar has lost her inheritance and her marriage. All she has left is the arcane secrets of the Wizards of Tsarepheth. Temur, on the other hand, is the true heir of his grandfather’s throne — but he’d rather go into exile than deal with his ruthless cousin. Together, this unlikely pair of almost-royals is going to have to find a way to save their kingdoms from a secret, insidious force of destruction.
Zélie’s world used to be filled with magic. Her own mother was a Reaper, capable of calling forth souls. But then, under the orders of a ruthless king, all the maji were killed, leaving Zélie motherless and desperate to fight back. If she wants to bring back magic, she’s going to have to outwit the crown prince himself (if she can keep her confusing new emotions under control, that is).
Very few rise up against the Martial Empire. To do so would mean death. When Laia’s brother is arrested for treason, though, she is forced to make a choice: stay silent and accept it, or risk her life for a group of rebels who just might be able to save him. Part fantasy and part dystopia, An Ember in the Ashes is the neo-Roman revolution we’ve all been waiting for.
Makeda and Abby are the children of a demigod and a human women. They were raised with their father, in a world of impossible magic (even though only one of them inherited any powers herself). They’re used to spending their time together, away from the nonmagical folk. Now that they’re older, though, it’s time to face their human side… and maybe even get some space from one another as they figure out what it means to be a sort of demigod on Earth.
In Tenochtitlan, capital of the Aztecs, a priestess has gone missing in a room soaked with blood. High priest Acatl must find her at once, or rupture the boundary between the worlds of the living and the dead, threatening the Mexica Empire itself. Obsidian and Blood combines actual Aztec history with flesh-eating demons for a bloody, inventive fantasy novel of epic proportions.
The Habitation of the Blessed is the story of Hiob of Luzerne, a missionary who stumbles upon some strange, strange books. But it’s also the story of Prester John and his utopian world, of his wife Hagia, a headless blemmye who carries her face on her chest, and of Imtithal, nanny to the royal family. It’s strange, miraculous, and a wild ride for fans of unique world-building.
Wasp is an Archivist, which more or less means it’s her job to hunt ghosts across a cruel, post-apocalyptic landscape. But every year it’s getting just a little harder to survive. So Wasp strikes a bargain with the ghost of a supersoldier: he will tell her what she needs to know about this dangerous world she lives in, and she will accompany him on a journey to find the long-lost ghost of his partner—a journey that will take them to the underworld itself.