Ultimate List of Fantasy Books That Are Not Harry Potter via WritingInTheKitchen.Com - @WritingInTheKitchen

Ultimate List of Fantasy Books That Are Not Harry Potter

I grew up pre-Harry Potter; the first Harry Potter book appeared just as I finished university. It didn’t stop me from reading it, of course. Like countless adults all over the world, I have read and reread the Harry Potter books, watched the movies, and had endless enjoyable conversations with friends about the mechanics of the books, the world that Rowling created, and the all-important feels the books tended to generate.

However, the Potter books weren’t my first introduction to fantasy, or to magic. I have known and loved the genre since my own childhood; I went to bed charmed by the antics of Hobbits, yelled for Chrestomanci to come and rescue me from misadventures, and watched the world from the window of a walking castle. Magic has existed since we could ideate it, and magic will exist for as long as human imagination does. Rowling may be credited with getting an entire generation of children to read again, but I am honestly puzzled by this because I don’t know why children weren’t reading; there was so much good stuff out there pre-Rowling by amazing authors who deserve to be celebrated and adored just as much, if not more.

So here it is; my ultimate list of magical tales that aren’t Harry Potter; some of them are the books that made me stay awake reading under the covers at night by the light of a torch; the books that had to be prised out of my hands when I was a child so that I would eat dinner/do my homework/go to school. Others are books I discovered – and fell in love with – as an adult.

The Chrestomanci Series by Diana Wynne Jones

Dianna Wynne Jones was an incredibly gifted writer whose ability to write warm, spellbinding, and incredible worlds for children and adults alike was matched only by her innate understanding and love of children. In the Chrestomanci series we meet Cat and Christopher Chant who apparently can’t do magic, despite the fact that their family is magically gifted. Or can they? And who is Chrestomanci, the enchanter with nine lives who is the only one who is capable of controlling the misuse of magic across multiple parallel universes in the Twelve Related Worlds?

Start with The Lives of Christopher Chant.

The Septimus Heap Series by Angie Sage

Septimus Heap, the long-awaited seventh son of the seventh son of Silas and Sarah Heap is born, and is bound to grow up to be a powerful enchanter, but he is stolen away from his mother in the dead of night. On the same night, Silas Heap discovers a violet-eyed baby girl wrapped in a bundle and tucked behind a bush in the cold. The Heaps mourn the loss of their son Septimus – who they assume is dead – and adopt the little girl, whom they name Jenna. Will they ever see Septimus again? Who is Jenna? And what on earth is going on, really? Angie Sage’s charming little world and its colourful cast of characters will delight children and adults alike.

Start with Magyk.

The Alchemaster’s Apprentice by Walter Moers

Reading a Walter Moers book is like going on a journey, with every moment more impossible than the last. But it’s going to be one of the most enjoyable and most imaginative journeys you will ever undertake, so I suggest you strap yourselves in and go along for the ride. Although The Alchemaster’s Apprentice is a standalone book, I highly recommend you read everything he’s ever written. In this masterpiece, Echo the Crat finds himself alone, friendless, and starving when his mistress dies. He enters into a contract with Ghoolion the Alchemaster. Ghoolion will feed Echo delectable goodies and fatten him up; Echo will never be hungry again. But in return Echo has to consent to being killed by Ghoolion on the next full moon.

Word of advice: buy plenty of snacks before you delve into this book. You will need them.

The Lord of the Rings Series by JRR Tolkien

Is there anybody in the fantasy-loving world who hasn’t heard of The Lord of the Rings series? Arguably the most famous fantasy of all time, Tolkien’s beloved classic has been immortalised in the movie trilogy of the same name. The premise is pretty simple: evil must be destroyed, and to do so the ring of power must be taken to a dangerous location that is far away and destroyed in the fires of Mount Doom, where the ring was forged by the evil Sauron. But along the way it is the adventures of the memorable, lovable, and diverse cast of characters – their struggles, their defeats, and their heart-stopping triumphs that sear this story across my mind as one of the brightest and the best. Pick the books up today.

Start with The Fellowship of the Ring.

The Discworld Series by Terry Pratchett

Sir Terry Pratchett’s amazing Discworld is located on a flat disc that rests on the backs of four giant elephants who stand on the back of Great A’Tuin, the star turtle, as she (or indeed, he) slowly swims through space. I read that description of this bonkers world and I was hooked. Then I read a book, and I was hooked even more. I can honestly and truthfully say that Pratchett’s delightful, absurd, clever, satiric, funny little world inspired me and awoke in me a deep desire to be a decent fantasy writer some day. The amazing cast of characters, the places, the observations – the wit, the wisdom, and the magic of Discworld will move you for decades. You will not regret it; pick up a book now.

Start with Guards, Guards. (Trust me on this.)

Earthsea Cycle Series by Ursula K. Le Guin

If you’re looking for a run-of-the-mill ‘normal’ fantasy, then Le Guin’s work is not going to be your cup of tea. But if you’re looking for mesmeric tales told in the best lyrical fairy tale traditions about a young arrogant boy who, in his high-handedness, unleashes terrible evil upon the world, and must then learn to control his powers so that he may undo what he has done; in order to do so he must face a darker version of himself and defeat it, and learn – truly – that there is darkness inside all of us. There is so much depth to this book, and it is only by reading and re-reading it over the years that I have absorbed it all. Props must also go to Le Guin for a non-white protagonist – not bad at all if you remember that this book was first published in 1968.

Start with A Wizard of Earthsea.

Howl’s Moving Castle Series by Diana Wynne Jones

I know; I know. I’ve already got one of Diana Wynne Jones’ series on this list. I can’t help it, though; Howl’s Moving Castle must find a place on it or it would be incomplete. Although the book was made into a popular animated film by the very talented Hayao Miyazaki, I entreat you to read the book. It is enchanting, and I guarantee you won’t be able to put it down once you begin. The characters are quirky and endearing; the story is beautifully written and the plot is intriguing and clever. The book is sweet and funny and charming, and I recommend the entire series. (Not so spoiler: The book is a million times better than the movie.)

Start with Howl’s Moving Castle.

The Oz Series by L. Frank Baum

Too many people are under the illusion that there is only one Oz story, and that is the story that everyone is most familiar with: The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. In truth, there are fourteen Oz books in the series, and each has its own magic and merits; apart from these he also wrote other books of short stories and stage plays set in the world that he’d created. Baum styled himself as The Royal Historian of Oz during his lifetime, perpetuating the notion that Oz was a real place, and claimed that he received stories and news from Oz via the wireless telegraph.

Start with The Wonderful Wizard of Oz.

Rivers of London Series by Ben Aaronovitch

This series is set in modern-day London, where a magical world exists unnoticed under the city until the magical world starts to collide with the world above. Caught up in the thick of it all is Probationary Constable Peter Grant who receives eyewitness information to a puzzling murder – from a ghost. His ability to speak with ghosts puts him front and centre as a series of barbarous and bizarre murders shake the city to its core. Aaronovitch’s love for London comes through clearly in his writing, and his characters are personable and likeable. Whilst some people may find some of the British-isms puzzling, I think it’s a great way to learn about another culture, and add some new words and phrases to your repertoire. Do yourselves a favour and pick this up pronto.

Start with Rivers of London (Peter Grant #1).

The Forbidden Library Series by Django Wexler

Alice is orphaned and packed off to live with her uncle Geryon, someone she’s heard about all her life, but never met. He lives in a manor with an enormous library that is off-limits to Alice, but one day she follows a talking cat into the library and meets a strange boy there who dares her to open a book. She does, and she becomes trapped in the book; she can escape it only when she defeats the creature that is imprisoned within. Wexler’s writing is rich and vivid, and immediately draws you in. His characters are joyous and detailed, and I didn’t want the book to end. You won’t either.

Start with The Forbidden Library.

What are some of your favourite fantasy books/series? Let me know in the comments!


  • Stace 7th November 2017 at 6:09 pm

    I keep meaning to read the Rivers of London! Perhaps next week when I have FREE TIME I’ll make it my reward. 🙂

    • Awanthi Vardaraj 8th November 2017 at 11:21 am

      Free time well earned! Good luck with your essay. 🙂

  • Crystal 7th November 2017 at 7:01 pm

    This is great. I’ve been looking for a new series to read.

  • Amy 8th November 2017 at 1:17 am

    great list! maybe add mistborn by Brandon Sanderson


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