Rachel Neumeier

Fantasy and Young Adult Fantasy Author

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Book Riot: Seven Standalone Fantasy Novels

So, over the weekend I happened to notice a post at Book Riot: Seven Standalone Novels for Fantasy Lovers. And I clicked through, after which two thoughts occurred to me: (a) Some darn good novels on this list, and (b) You couldn’t even get to ten, seriously?

Because yes, yes, there are a LOT of fantasy series out there, as we have perhaps all noticed. Which is great! I love series, and while I won’t quite say the longer the better, I will note that I am still cheerfully buying Foreigner novels and Vlad Taltos novels as quickly as they come out. But there is not exactly a dire shortage of standalones if you think about it.

I definitely am more willing to pick up a standalone novel when I don’t have time for a whole series, or certainly when I want to try a new-to-me author, and surely plenty of people feel the same way. So I took a few minutes and blew the list of seven standalone fantasy titles up to a nice even fifty. I tried to include books I really love (but I did include a handful I haven’t even read but that are on my TBR pile).

First, here are the seven titles included on the Book Riot Post. I’ve read only three, but I really loved all three and keep meaning to read more by Karen Lord. Anyway, here we go:

1. Uprooted by Novik
2. Redemption in Indigo by Karen Lord
3. The Sorcerer of the Wildeeps by Kai Ashante Wilson
4. The Goblin Emperor by Katherine Addison
5. The Ballad of Black Tom by Victor LaValle
6. The Ghost Bride by Yangsze Choo
7. The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

And now here are 43 more standalone titles, to bring the total to fifty. I drew quite freely on older titles, and you will probably notice that I included more than one title by specific authors if they happen to be great writers who specialize in standalones. A few I haven’t read; those are mostly on my TBR pile. Also, there are no SF titles here – strictly fantasy. Also, yes, I included my own standalone titles. If you don’t see one of my titles on here that looks at the moment like a standalone, that’s because there will definitely be a sequel someday, even though I may not know just when it will appear.

Now, my handy expanded list, for those looking for standalone fantasy novels:

8. Watership Down by Richard Adams. Is this a fantasy? There’s no magic . . . but it’s such a great book. And it totally stands alone!
9. The Last Unicorn by Beagle
10. The Innkeeper’s Song by Beagle. I so need to re-read this.

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11. War for the Oaks by Bull
12. Paladin by Cherryh
13. Sorcerer to the Crown by Cho
14. Jonathon Strange and Mr. Norrell by Clarke
15. The Graveyard Book by Gaiman
16. A Tale of Time City by Diana Wynne Jones
17. Power of Three by DWJ
18. Dogsbody by DWJ
19. Arthur’s Goon by DWJ
20. Tigana by Guy Gavriel Kay
21. A Song for Arbonne by GGK
22. The Lions of Al-Rassan by GGK
23. Under Heaven by GGK

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24. Children of the Earth and Sky by, yes, still GGK
25. Archivist Wasp by Korner-Stace
26. The Privilege of the Sword by Kushner
27. The Gray Horse by MacAvoy
28. The Moon and the Sun by MacIntyre
29. The Forgotten Beasts of Eld by Patricia McKillip
30. The Book of Atrix Wolfe by McKillip
31. The Changeling Sea by McKillip
32. Ombria in Shadow by McKillip

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33. Alphabet of Thorn by, yes, McKillip; I know, right? I could list a whole bunch more of hers, but let’s move one:
34. Deerskin by Robin McKinley
35. Sunshine by McKinley
36. The City and the City by Mieville
37. The City in the Lake by Neumeier
38. The Keeper of the Mist by Neumeier
39. The Mountain of Kept Memory by Neumeier (I know it’s not out yet, but hey, November’s not so very far away anymore)
40. The White Road of the Moon by Neumeier (ditto, although I grant that March 2017 still seems fairly distant even to me)
41. The Folding Knife by KJ Parker
42. The Anubis Gates by Tim Powers
43. On Stranger Tides by Tim Powers
44. Bone Gap by Ruby
45. Elantris by Sanderson
46. The Shape-Changer’s Wife by Shinn

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47. Scorpio Races by Stiefvater
48. Lord of the Two Lands by Tarr
49. Among Others by Walton
50. Sister Light Sister Dark by Yolan

There. Honestly, I don’t think that took more than ten, maybe twenty minutes. I just went and gazed at my bookshelves and scribbled down names – I didn’t even have to turn on my Kindle.

Okay, what screamingly obvious standalone fantasy titles did I miss? I’m sure there are another fifty titles that ought to be included on this kind of list, so drop a couple in the comments if any occur to you.

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24 Comments Book Riot: Seven Standalone Fantasy Novels

  1. Evelyn Alexie

    Great list! A lot of these are definitely worth mentioning. I haven’t read all of these (especially, *ahem* the ones that are still to be released) but I love adding to my TBR pile.
    I would consider ‘The Perilous Gard’ as fantasy, but I could see people arguing that Elizabeth Marie Pope skirted the line there.

  2. Rachel

    If Watership down counts, then surely The Perilous Gard also counts.

    I keep thinking of more — The Wheel of the Infinite by Wells; Hunting by Andrea Host — I should have aimed for 100 titles right from the start.

    The Hobbit

    The Goblin Emperor

    The Secrets of Jin-Shei

    Stranger to Command

    Yeah, I should have gone for 100.

  3. Elaine T

    My first thought was: Only 7? What about the output of GGKay and McKillip? The original list is disappointingly confined to recent output. (wanders over to original post.) Well, that explains it. Deliberately confined to recent and to books that are truly stand alone, not sharing a universe with others. Which explains why the Kay and Clarke didn’t make it, but not McKillip.

    More Peter Beagle – The Folk of the Air and Tamsin. More Tim Powers – DECLARE ( that Russian and djinn one). Patricia Briggs – Hobbs Bargain. Kushner – Thomas the Rhymer. Pamela Dean – Juniper, Gentian and Rosemary, as well as Tam Lin. Janny Wurts – To Ride Hell’s Chasm, Sorceror’s Legacy, Master of Whitestorm. CJC – Goblin Mirror.
    Dorothy Heydt/Katharine Blake – The Interior Life (which she’s digitizing, BTW).

    That’s off the top of my head, without looking at bookshelves, and not duplicating your list. I look forward to other contributions.

  4. Rachel Neumeier

    I have to subtract one: I forgot The Goblin Emperor was one of the 7 when I put it in a comment. Oops.

    And I should have remembered An Interior Life!

    Also Brother to Dragons Companion to Owls. SF trappings, but really fantasy imo.

  5. SarahZ

    Brenna Yovanoff does all stand-alone fantasy (Paper Valentine, The Space Between, etc)

    September Girls by Bennett Madison

    The Coldest Girl in Coldtown by Holly Black

    Going Bovine (sorta? Is it fantasy?) by Libba Bray

    The Brides of Rollrock Island by Margo Lanagan (and she’s got others I think)

    I was going to add Shadow Society by Marie Rutkoski, but on goodreads it has a #1. I think that’s just because of a short story in the same world, not because there’s another book, though.

  6. Elaine T

    jo Walton’s TOOTH & CLAW (dragons) as well as LIFELODE (seriously strange setting wherein time flows at different rates in different parts of the world. Oh, and Rachel, you like Rumer Godden, Walton uses Godden’s hitherto unique way of writing chronologically in circles – or something – in this one.)

    If you’ll accept sf/f Katie Waitman’s THE MERRO TREE. I want to see some of the perfomances described.

  7. Samuel Lubell

    There are a few listed here that aren’t standalones.
    #13, Sorcerer to the Crown is “Book #1 of the Sorcerer Royal trilogy”. Yes the sequel isn’t out yet, but it wasn’t written as a standalone.
    #26 Privilege of the Sword is book two in the Riverside series. Book one is Swordpoint.
    #23 Under Heaven can be debated as there is a second book in the same universe, River of Stars, but it is set 400 years later.
    #22 The Lions of Al-Rassan also can be debated since technically it is in the same world as The Sarantine Mosaic and The Last Light of the Sun.
    #45 Sanderson has announced that Elantris will eventually have a sequel and his Hugo-winning novella, The Emperor’s Soul, takes place on the same world.

  8. Kootch

    The Silvered by Tanya Huff; Shadows by Robin McKinley; Warbreaker by Brandon Sanderson; The Golden Key by Melanie Rawn, Jennifer Roberson and Kate Elliott; Thief with no Shadow by Emily Gee; Last Light of the Sun by GGK. Definitely should have gone for 100.

  9. Rachel

    Samuel, thanks! I didn’t realize Sorcerer to the Crown was the first of a series.

    I know that Privilege of the Sword is technically connected to other books set in the same world, but it stands very much alone from them, I think. Same for Lions of Al-Rassan and certainly Under Heaven. If the book stands alone, then it does, regardless of whether other books are set in the same world. If you don’t even have continuing characters, what difference does it make whether it’s the same world or a different one?

    That’s different even from, say, The Griffin Mage trilogy, where the events of one book flow directly into the events of the next, even though the protagonists are different in each book.

  10. Rachel

    It occurs to me that every fairy tale retelling technically counts as a standalone, too. There are probably at least fifty good ones just in that subgenre.

  11. Rachel

    Kootch, did Shadows really feel like a standalone to you? To me it totally felt like the first book of a series . . . though given Robin McKinley’s tendency to not finish series, we may never see a companion novel even if she initially planned one.

  12. Jen Birren

    Sister Light, Sister Dark has a couple of direct sequels (one of them is called White Jenna, can’t remember the other).
    Elaine T: Ooh, yes, Lifelode is amazing, definitely my favourite of Walton’s books.

    Banner of the Damned by Sherwood Smith- it’s set in her usual universe, but unconnected to all her other stories (except I think one of the characters may be one of Inda’s ancestors).
    A Snicker of Magic! At least it’s a standalone so far, it looks like Natalie Lloyd’s next book isn’t a sequel.

    Did Elizabeth Gouge write any series books? The Little White Horse is certainly standalone.
    (Now I’m thinking of classic children’s fantasy. A Traveller In Time by Alison Uttely is standalone; The Sherwood Ring by Elizabeth Pope, too. I think all of Nesbit’s and Edward Eager’s are series. Helen Cresswell- Tom’s Midnight Garden and The Moondial are both solo (and now I want to re-read Moondial!) Several Roald Dahl books. Stig of the Dump. Peter Pan. The Owl Service. Thurber’s The Wonderful O. The Wind In the Willows, is that fantasy? Charlotte’s Web?)
    This is fun!

  13. Rachel

    Jen, great idea to bring in all the kids’ books! Yes, heaps of those are standalones. I would definitely count The Wind in the Willows. But I didn’t remember that Sister Light Sister Dark had sequels! Whoops.

  14. Matthew E

    Some big ones I haven’t seen mentioned: Dogland (Shetterly), The Last Hot Time (Ford), The Princess Bride (Morgenstern/Goldman), Good Omens (Pratchett & Gaiman), The Face in the Frost (Bellairs), Bride of the Rat God (Hambly), Brown Girl in the Ring (Hopkinson), Wheel of the Infinite (Wells), Lud-in-the-Mist (Mirrlees). And, sure there was magic in Watership Down: Fiver was psychic.

  15. Elaine T

    Secrets of Jin-Shei has a sequel of sorts, set a couple hundred years later with the umpty-great grandchildren of Tai returning to the country, shortly before the equivalent of the Mao. Captured the frozen in time sense of emigrant descendents about the ancestral land. And did a decent job of handling the atrocities, AFAICT. Parts haunt me.

    Elizabeth Goudge did have some connected books in her children’s fantasy, but not to The Little White Horse . There are a couple that go together, I think Linnets and Valerians and Henrietta’s House . (HH certainly goes with something else she wrote, I’m just not sure I’m pairing it correctly.)

  16. Rachel

    I remembered Wheel of the Infinite later, but how did I forget Bride of the Rat God? Such a fun book. And you’re right, a touch of magic in Watership Down.

    I really liked Dogland a lot, but there was a sequel, which was unfortunately pretty terrible imo, so the first book should definitely be read as a standalone.

  17. Elaine T

    And Steven Brust wrote a couple standalones, none of which I enjoyed, much, but they’re out there: To Reign in Hell, Sun Moon & Stars, Agyar, Freedom and Necessity, Cowboy Feng, the Gypsy.

  18. Craig

    I was looking at the 1941 retro-Hugo list recently, which inclines me to go old school. Really old-school.

    Three Hearts and Three Lions, Anderson
    Red Moon and Black Mountain, Chant
    Ursus of Ultima Thule, Davidson
    Land of Unreason, de Camp & Pratt
    The King of Elfland’s Daughter, Lord Dunsany
    The Worm Ouroboros, Eddison [I know, but it’s really a standalone]
    The Night Land, Hodgson
    Conjure Wife, Leiber
    Our Lady of Darkness, Leiber
    Lilith, Macdonald
    The Wood Beyond the World, Morris
    The Blue Star, Pratt

    For more contemporary (that is, only 10 or 20 years old), let me add a couple of singletons by authors who mostly write series: Bujold’s The Spirit Ring and Harry Turtledove’s The Land Between the Rivers.

  19. Rachel

    Elaine, I really liked Freedom and Necessity! The others you mention not really so very much, I admit.

    Craig, I should have thought of Red Moon and Black Mountain. I admit I don’t remember reading most of the others you’ve got there.

  20. Allan Shampine

    Oh wow that takes me back!

    Three Hearts and Three Lions was wonderful. My dad had a copy of this in his library and I remember reading it at quite a young age. Really contributed to my love of fantasy.

    The King of Elfland’s Daughter left me relatively cold as a novel. However! Peter Knight and Bob Johnson made a really nice music album based on it. Christopher Lee sang the part of the Erl King!

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_King_of_Elfland%27s_Daughter_(album)

    Land of Unreason, Night Land, COnjure Wife, Our Lady of Darkness – all fine novels.

    I really love the idea of the retro-Hugos. Makes me want to go back and reread a lot of these classic novels from my youth.

  21. Elaine T

    The King of Elfland’s Daughter has Dunsany’s gorgeous writing, but suffers from stupidity in the characters. We reread it recently, the Teen & I. Teen got how from it how to write a particular short she’d been having trouble with (style), I got ‘bad decisions all around’. But a good depiction of Faerie and depicting Faeries as other. The album was unexpectedly good.

  22. Craig

    Rachel, I doubt you’ve read most of those and would not necessarily recommend all of them to you. In particular, one reads Dunsany for style and not at all for characterization. While The King of Elfland’s Daughter has good elements, I don’t think anyone disputes that Dunsany was much better at short story than novel-length. I had never heard of the album, incidentally, until just now.

    I could issue cautions about most of the books on my list, really, but most of them do let you know pretty quickly whether they’ll be to your taste or not. Except The Night Land, which only does that after you skip the first chapter. Oh, and the Turtledove is marred by the maguffin, which you don’t find out for a while: enjoy the journey rather than looking forward to the destination.

  23. Elaine T

    the Night Land is the one with dehydrated water, IIRC. I got past boggling at that and finished the book so it had something going for it.

  24. Kootch

    Rachel, I included Shadows because I haven’t seen a sequel but would love it if Robin Mc wrote one. Agree with you about Freedom and Necessity, forgot about that. And Good Omens.

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