4. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson
4. The Black Magician Trilogy by Trudi CanavanBuy it from Amazon
In a reversal of the traditional “magic university” plot, The Black Magician is set in Kyralia, a world where magic is preserved for the elite. When a girl from the slums of Imardin named Sonea discovers powerful magic of her own, the Magicians’ Guild attempts to capture her for her own good and for the safety of the city. Sonea, naturally, has very different plans.
If you enjoy the setting of Kyralia, Trudi Canavan’s Traitor Spy Trilogy is set after the events in the original trilogy. Canavan is an outstanding worldbuilder with many great series to explore.
5. A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court by Mark TwainBuy it from Amazon
In one of the earliest examples of time travel fiction (which also makes this a sci-fi novel of sorts), Mark Twain explores the possible consequences of an educated 19th century man being transported to the time of King Arthur, where he is mistaken for a magician. Hank Morgan, the unwitting time-traveler, becomes the nemesis of Merlin, and ultimately gains influence in the land of Camelot.
If reading the name “Mark Twain” incites queasy memories of high school English class, try to forget your initial impression of his writing. Twain’s humor resonates through time and likely always will. This is a great starting place if you’ve never read a book by the original celebrity author.
6. Tigana by Guy Gavriel KayBuy it from Amazon
With his pseudo-historical and low-magic style, Guy Gavriel Kay creates a convincing world in Tigana. A tyrant has kept a people from their homeland—few can even remember it. But a brave collection of passionate characters stand up for their home and their culture. There aren’t enough standalones in fantasy, and this epic is neatly packaged in one volume.
Kay is known for his low-conflict plots and well-written characters. If you need a break from the melee of popular fantasy, it’s hard to go wrong with Tigana or his The Lions of Al-Rassan.