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List Uplifting

13 Most Uplifting Fantasy Books

 

“Eagle’s Peak” by RowyeCheck out the artist on DeviantArt

Every now and then, everyone needs a boost, and these books deliver. Some are funny, some are just plain fun, and some simply have a big heart.

 

13
Nice Dragons Finish Last
by Rachel Aaron – 2014
Book 1 of 5 in the Heartstrikers series

As the smallest dragon in the Heartstriker clan, Julius survives by a simple code: keep quiet, don’t cause trouble, and stay out of the way of bigger dragons. But this meek behavior doesn’t fly in a family of ambitious magical predators, and his mother, Bethesda the Heartstriker, has finally reached the end of her patience. Now, sealed in human form and banished to the DFZ—a vertical metropolis built on the ruins of Old Detroit—Julius has one month to prove he can be a ruthless dragon or kiss his true shape goodbye forever. But in a city of modern mages and vengeful spirits where dragons are considered monsters to be exterminated, he’s going to need some serious help to survive this test. He only hopes humans are more trustworthy than dragons…

“A deliriously smart and funny beginning to a new urban fantasy series about dragons in the ruins of Detroit… inventive, uproariously clever, and completely un-put-down-able!”
—SF Signal

12
His Majesty’s Dragon
by Naomi Novik – 2006
Book 1 of 9 in the Temeraire series

It’s the Napoleonic Wars with a twist—everyone’s using dragons. Fortunately, the dragons can speak and reason, and are as fully-realized (if not more) than the human characters.

When the HMS Reliant captures a French frigate and seizes its precious cargo (an unhatched dragon egg), fate sweeps Capt. Will Laurence from his seafaring life into an uncertain future and an unexpected kinship with a most extraordinary creature.

Thrust into the rarified world of the Aerial Corps as master of the dragon Temeraire, he faces a crash course in the daring tactics of airborne battle. For as France’s own dragon-borne forces rally to breach British soil in Bonaparte’s boldest gambit, Laurence and Temeraire must soar into their own baptism of fire.

“[D]elightful… Novik seamlessly blends fantasy into the history of the Napoleonic wars… [A] story rich with international, interpersonal and internal struggles.”
—Publishers Weekly

11
The Night Circus
by Erin Morgenstern – 2011

The circus arrives without warning. No announcements precede it. It is simply there, when yesterday it was not. Within the black-and-white striped canvas tents is an utterly unique experience full of breathtaking amazements. It is called Le Cirque des Rêves, and it is only open at night.

But behind the scenes, a fierce competition is underway: a duel between two young magicians, Celia and Marco, who have been trained since childhood expressly for this purpose by their mercurial instructors. Unbeknownst to them, this is a game in which only one can be left standing, and the circus is but the stage for a remarkable battle of imagination and will. Despite themselves, however, Celia and Marco tumble headfirst into love—a deep, magical love that makes the lights flicker and the room grow warm whenever they so much as brush hands.

True love or not, the game must play out, and the fates of everyone involved, from the cast of extraordinary circus perrformers to the patrons, hang in the balance, suspended as precariously as the daring acrobats overhead.

“Magical. Enchanting. Spellbinding. Mesmerizing.”
—Associated Press

10
Orconomics
by J. Zachary Pike – 2014
Book 1 of 2 in The Dark Profit Saga series

Gorm Ingerson’s glory days are a distant memory. Back when he was a hero-for-hire, the Dwarf adventurer slaughtered Orcs and Goblins for credit without a second thought. He never expected that robbing an intrepid adventurer would get him his own pesky Goblin sidekick. With nothing better to do, the hungover Dwarf escorts his tagalong through the wilderness… and ends up roped into a suicidal quest he can’t refuse.

On a mission to win back a stolen treasure, Gorm must hold together a bickering team of half-baked heroes and their empty-headed prophet. With each new obstacle, Gorm can sense the powerful men who funded his trip following their every move with a strange fixation. To complete the dangerous mission with his internal organs intact, Gorm must figure out the sinister truth behind the investors’ master plan before he and his misfit band become quest fodder.

“A complete joy of a book.”
—The Library Police

9
Howl's Moving Castle
by Diana Wynne Jones – 1986
Book 1 of 3 in the Howl’s Castle series

Sophie has the great misfortune of being the eldest of three daughters, destined to fail miserably should she ever leave home to seek her fate. But when she unwittingly attracts the ire of the Witch of the Waste, Sophie finds herself under a horrid spell that transforms her into an old lady. Her only chance at breaking it lies in the ever-moving castle in the hills: the Wizard Howl’s castle. To untangle the enchantment, Sophie must handle the heartless Howl, strike a bargain with a fire demon, and meet the Witch of the Waste head-on. Along the way, she discovers that there’s far more to Howl—and herself—than first meets the eye.

This is also a great movie.

“Jones’ inventiveness never fails, and her conclusion is infinitely satisfying.”
—School Library Journal

8
A Turn of Light
by Julie E. Czerneda – 2013
Book 1 of 2 in the Night’s Edge series

The pastoral valley of Marrowdell is home to a small pioneer settlement of refugees, lush fields of grain, enigmatic house toads, and Jenn Nalynn, the miller’s daughter. Life here is full of laughter and peace, as well as hard work, and no one bothers overmuch about the outside world.

Except Jenn Nalynn.

Jenn longs to travel, to seek what’s missing in her life. Not that she’s sure what that is, but since this summer began, she’s felt a strange and powerful yearning. She’s certain she’ll find what she needs, if only she can leave the valley.

But she must not.

Jenn is turn-born and cursed, born by the light of two worlds and bound to both. For the valley is more than it seems. Long ago, a cataclysm of misused power pinned Marrowdell to the Verge, a place of wild magic, home to dragons and even stranger creatures. Should Jenn step beyond Marrowdell, she will pull the worlds asunder.

To prevent this, powers from the Verge have sent a guard to watch over her, a disgraced dragon Jenn knows as Wisp, her invisible playmate. Wisp’s duty is to keep Jenn in Marrowdell.

By love, if he can. By her death, if he must.

But time is running out. What Jenn unknowingly feels is the rise of the Verge’s magic within her, a magic that will threaten her and those she loves. Worse, this summer will end with a Great Turn, and strangers seeking power at any cost have come to Marrowdell to try to force an opening into the Verge, to the ruin of all.

“Science fiction author Czerneda will charm fantasy readers with multidimensional characters, a vivid setting, and powerful themes of hope and renewal.”
—Publishers Weekly

7
The Wizard's Guide to Defensive Baking
by T Kingfisher – 2020

Fourteen-year-old Mona isn’t like the wizards charged with defending the city. She can’t control lightning or speak to water. Her familiar is a sourdough starter and her magic only works on bread. She has a comfortable life in her aunt’s bakery making gingerbread men dance.

But Mona’s life is turned upside down when she finds a dead body on the bakery floor. An assassin is stalking the streets of Mona’s city, preying on magic folk, and it appears that Mona is his next target. And in an embattled city suddenly bereft of wizards, the assassin may be the least of Mona’s worries…

“Dive in… if you are looking to be charmed and delighted.”
—Locus

6
The House in the Cerulean Sea
by TJ Klune – 2020

Linus Baker is a by-the-book case worker in the Department in Charge of Magical Youth. He’s tasked with determining whether six dangerous magical children are likely to bring about the end of the world.

Arthur Parnassus is the master of the orphanage. He would do anything to keep the children safe, even if it means the world will burn. And his secrets will come to light.

“Quirk and charm give way to a serious exploration of the dangers of complacency in this delightful, thought-provoking Orwellian fantasy from Klune…. This tale of found family is hopeful to its core. Readers will revel in Klune’s wit and ingenuity.”
―Publishers Weekly, starred review

5
Ten Thousand Doors of January
by Alix E. Harrow – 2019

In a sprawling mansion filled with peculiar treasures, January Scaller is a curiosity herself. As the ward of the wealthy Mr. Locke, she feels little different from the artifacts that decorate the halls: carefully maintained, largely ignored, and utterly out of place.

Then she finds a strange book. A book that carries the scent of other worlds, and tells a tale of secret doors, of love, adventure and danger. Each page turn reveals impossible truths about the world, and January discovers a story increasingly entwined with her own.

“One for the favorites shelf… Here is a book to make you happy when you gently close it. Here you will find wonder and questions and an unceasingly gorgeous love of words which compasses even the shape a letter makes against a page.”
―NPR Books

4
Soulless
by Gail Carriger – 2009
Book 1 of 5 in the Parasol Protectorate series

Alexia Tarabotti is laboring under a great many social tribulations. First, she has no soul. Second, she’s a spinster whose father is both Italian and dead. Third, she was rudely attacked by a vampire, breaking all standards of social etiquette.

Where to go from there? From bad to worse, for Alexia accidentally kills the vampire, and then the appalling Lord Maccon (loud, messy, gorgeous, and a werewolf) is sent by Queen Victoria to investigate.

With unexpected vampires appearing and expected vampires disappearing, everyone seems to believe Alexia responsible. Can she figure out what is actually happening to London’s high society? Will her soulless ability to negate supernatural powers prove useful or just plain embarrassing? Finally, who is the real enemy, and do they have treacle tart?

“Carriger debuts brilliantly with a blend of Victorian romance, screwball comedy of manners and alternate history… This intoxicatingly witty parody will appeal to a wide cross-section of romance, fantasy and steampunk fans.”
―Publishers Weekly, starred review

3
Kings of the Wyld
by Nicholas Eames – 2017
Book 1 of 2 in The Band series

Clay Cooper and his band were once the best of the best, the most feared and renowned crew of mercenaries this side of the Heartwyld.

Their glory days long past, the mercs have grown apart and grown old, fat, drunk, or a combination of the three. Then an ex-bandmate turns up at Clay’s door with a plea for help—the kind of mission that only the very brave or the very stupid would sign up for.

It’s time to get the band back together.

“Brilliant debut novel… Eames has cranked the thrills of epic fantasy up to 11… Moreover, the plot is emotionally rewarding, original, and hilarious. Eames clearly set out to write something fun to read, and he has succeeded spectacularly.”
—Publishers Weekly, starred review

2
The Goblin Emperor
by Katherine Addison – 2014

The youngest, half-goblin son of the Emperor has lived his entire life in exile, distant from the Imperial Court and the deadly intrigue that suffuses it. But when his father and three sons in line for the throne are killed in an “accident,” he has no choice but to take his place as the only surviving rightful heir.

Entirely unschooled in the art of court politics, he has no friends, no advisors, and the sure knowledge that whoever assassinated his father and brothers could make an attempt on his life at any moment.

Surrounded by sycophants eager to curry favor with the naïve new emperor, and overwhelmed by the burdens of his new life, he can trust nobody. Amid the swirl of plots to depose him, offers of arranged marriages, and the specter of the unknown conspirators who lurk in the shadows, he must quickly adjust to life as the Goblin Emperor. All the while, he is alone, and trying to find even a single friend… and hoping for the possibility of romance, yet also vigilant against the unseen enemies that threaten him, lest he lose his throne—or his life.

“Addison has built a completely believable world, with its own language, customs, and history, but there are tantalizingly familiar elements.”
—Booklist

1
Guards! Guards!
by Terry Pratchett – 1989
Book 8 of 45 in the Discworld series

I’m a huge Terry Pratchett and Discworld fan, and this book is one of the best in terms of clever plot, fascinating characters, interesting use of magic, and Pratchett’s clear-eyed but sympathetic take on human nature. It’s also hilarious.

Long believed extinct, a superb specimen of draco nobilis (“noble dragon” for those who don’t understand italics) has appeared in Discworld’s greatest city. Not only does this unwelcome visitor have a nasty habit of charbroiling everything in its path, in rather short order it is crowned King (it is a noble dragon, after all…). How did it get there? How is the Unique and Supreme Lodge of the Elucidated Brethren of the Ebon Night involved? Can the bumbling City Watch restore order—and the Patrician of Ankh-Morpork—to power?

“This is one of Pratchett’s best books. Hilarious and highly recommended.”
—The Times

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