Looking for a riveting, magical story without the need to commit to a full series? In this article, you’ll find the 15 best stand-alone fantasy books I’ve read.
Sometimes, you want just one book to get you out of a reading slump. Other times, you’re in the need of a comforting novel to binge on a rainy day. Whatever the case may be, stand-alone fantasy books can be like a balm for the reader (particularly, the worn-out reader).
I’ve never been able to nail down whether I prefer a series versus a stand-alone, but I have to admit that there are so many favorites on this list that I’m beginning to believe that I have my answer after all. Several of these titles are ones that I read in one sitting, a few of them are ones that I’ve read more than one time, and still others are novels that I find myself constantly recommending to get back into reading! My hope is that by sharing this list, you’ll find a new favorite.
The Best Fantasy Books of All Time // How The Darkling Changed My Perspective on Fantasy Villains // 6 Magical Books to Read When You Need an Escape
15 Stand-Alone Fantasy Books You Should Add to Your Reading List
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Into the Heartless Wood
by Joanna Ruth Meyer
This is my favorite book of all time. It’s a little dark, a bit romantic, and absolutely hauntingly beautiful. I’ve never read anything else like it and I sometimes think I was just put on this earth to scream about it from the rooftops. I want everyone to read it!
The forest is a dangerous place, where siren song lures men and women to their deaths.
Deep in the wood lives a witch queen and her eight tree siren daughters. For centuries, they have harvested souls to feed the heartless tree, using its power to grow their ever reaching kingdom of ash, birch, and oak.
Owen Merrick lives at the edge of the forest, mapping the stars for the king in his father’s observatory. For years, he has resisted venturing over the garden wall, until one day he must enter the woods to find his missing sister. But one of the witch’s tree siren daughters, Seren, decides to save his life instead of end it. Now, no matter how hard he tries, he can’t stop thinking about her — the birch-bright hue of her skin and the way violets bloom in her hair. Every night, he goes into the wood to meet her, and their love for each other grows.
But when the constellations shift, the stars foretell an inevitable war between the witch queen and the king. With Seren compelled to fight for her mother, and Owen forced to join the king’s army, they are plunged into the heart of a conflict that seemingly no one can win and that might destroy both their kingdoms forever.
The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue
by VE Schwab
I wasn’t sure how I would feel about this book when I first picked it up, but now it’s in my top three favorite novels of all time. It starts slow, but the story morphs into something so breathtaking. It’s also filled with incredible quotes. I just adore it.
A Life No One Will Remember. A Story You Will Never Forget.
France, 1714: in a moment of desperation, a young woman makes a Faustian bargain to live forever–and is cursed to be forgotten by everyone she meets.
Thus begins the extraordinary life of Addie LaRue, and a dazzling adventure that will play out across centuries and continents, across history and art, as a young woman learns how far she will go to leave her mark on the world.
But everything changes when, after nearly 300 years, Addie stumbles across a young man in a hidden bookstore and he remembers her name.
The Starless Sea
by Erin Morgenstern
I can’t recommend the audiobook for this one (and Morgenstern’s The Night Circus) enough. Reading the physical copy was a bit too confusing for me, but the “no plot, just vibes” feeling worked brilliantly as full-cast audio. It’s like a bedtime story for adults.
Are you lost or are you exploring?
When Zachary Rawlins stumbles across a strange book hidden in his university library it leads him on a quest unlike any other. Its pages entrance him with their tales of lovelorn prisoners, lost cities and nameless acolytes, but they also contain something impossible: a recollection from his own childhood.
Determined to solve the puzzle of the book, Zachary follows the clues he finds on the cover – a bee, a key and a sword. They guide him to a masquerade ball, to a dangerous secret club, and finally through a magical doorway created by the fierce and mysterious Mirabel. This door leads to a subterranean labyrinth filled with stories, hidden far beneath the surface of the earth.
When the labyrinth is threatened, Zachary must race with Mirabel, and Dorian, a handsome barefoot man with shifting alliances, through its twisting tunnels and crowded ballrooms, searching for the end of his story.
You are invited to join Zachary on the starless sea: the home of storytellers, story-lovers and those who will protect our stories at all costs.
The Nature of Witches
by Rachel Griffin
THIS BOOK. I read it in a day because I truly couldn’t put it down. It made me feel so absorbed in the story that I forgot I was reading. It’s so atmospheric and makes me appreciate our earth so much more.
Practical Magic meets Twister in this debut contemporary fantasy standalone about heartbreaking power, the terror of our collapsing atmosphere, and the ways we unknowingly change our fate.
For centuries, witches have maintained the climate, their power from the sun peaking in the season of their birth. But now their control is faltering as the atmosphere becomes more erratic. All hope lies with Clara Densmore, an Everwitch whose rare magic is tied to every season.
In Autumn, Clara wants nothing to do with her power. It’s wild and volatile, and the price of her magic―losing the ones she loves―is too high, despite the need to control the increasingly dangerous weather.
In Winter, the world is on the precipice of disaster. Fires burn, storms rage, and Clara accepts that she’s the only one who can make a difference.
In Spring, she falls for Sang, the witch training her. As her magic grows, so do her feelings, until she’s terrified Sang will be the next one she loses.
In Summer, Clara must choose between her power and her happiness, her duty and the people she loves…before she loses Sang, her magic, and thrusts the world into chaos.
The Bone Houses
by Emily Lloyd-Jones
After reading this one, I came up with the description “cozy creepy” because that’s the best way to explain how this book feels. It has chronic pain rep and as my friend lovingly put it, “it’s a love letter to zombies.” But have no fear, I hate zombies and I loved this book. It’s not scary at all!
Seventeen-year-old Aderyn (“Ryn”) only cares about two things: her family, and her family’s graveyard. And right now, both are in dire straits. Since the death of their parents, Ryn and her siblings have been scraping together a meager existence as gravediggers in the remote Welsh village of Colbren, which sits at the foot of a harsh and deadly mountain range that was once home to fae creatures known as the Otherfolk. The problem with being a gravedigger in Colbren, though, is that the dead don’t always stay dead.
The risen corpses are known as “bone houses,” and legend says that they’re the result of a decades-old curse. Ryn has always been quick to deal with this inconvenience whenever they wander too close to her graveyard, but when Ellis, an apprentice mapmaker, arrives in town, the bone houses attack with renewed purpose. What is it about Ellis that draws them near? And more importantly, how can they stop them for good?
Together, Ellis and Ryn embark on a quest that will bring them deep into the heart of the mountains, where they will have to face both the curse and long-hidden truths about themselves. Equal parts classic horror novel and original fairy-tale, The Bone Houses will have you spellbound from the very first page.
by Marissa Meyer
I read this book the year it came out and it’s been fun to see it resurface as a popular novel. It’s so heart-wrenchingly sad but also so good! I recently did a reread for it and enjoyed getting my heart shattered all over again.
Long before she was the terror of Wonderland, she was just a girl who wanted to fall in love.
Catherine may be one of the most desired girls in Wonderland, and a favorite of the unmarried King of Hearts, but her interests lie elsewhere. A talented baker, all she wants is to open a shop with her best friend. But according to her mother, such a goal is unthinkable for the young woman who could be the next queen.
Then Cath meets Jest, the handsome and mysterious court joker. For the first time, she feels the pull of true attraction. At the risk of offending the king and infuriating her parents, she and Jest enter into an intense, secret courtship. Cath is determined to define her own destiny and fall in love on her terms. But in a land thriving with magic, madness, and monsters, fate has other plans.
In her first stand-alone teen novel, the New York Times-bestselling author dazzles us with a prequel to Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.
The Ten Thousand Doors of January
by Alix E Harrow
This is another book that gives me the “no plot, just vibes” feeling and I’m all about it. If I were to try and describe those vibes, I’d basically tell you that it’s a book filled with magical stories within stories and lots of grand adventures.
In the early 1900s, a young woman embarks on a fantastical journey of self-discovery after finding a mysterious book in this captivating and lyrical debut.
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.
Lush and richly imagined, a tale of impossible journeys, unforgettable love, and the enduring power of stories awaits in Alix E. Harrow’s spellbinding debut–step inside and discover its magic.
Girl, Serpent, Thorn
by Melissa Bashardoust
If you’re a fan of fairytales with wicked twists, you will love this book. I gobbled it up in a very short amount of time. It constantly makes you wonder what will happen next!
Melissa Bashardoust’s Girl, Serpent, Thorn is “an alluring feminist fairy tale” (Kirkus Reviews) about a girl cursed to be poisonous to the touch and who discovers what power might lie in such a curse.
There was and there was not, as all stories begin, a princess cursed to be poisonous to the touch. But for Soraya, who has lived her life hidden away, apart from her family, safe only in her gardens, it’s not just a story.
As the day of her twin brother’s wedding approaches, Soraya must decide if she’s willing to step outside of the shadows for the first time. Below in the dungeon is a demon who holds knowledge that she craves, the answer to her freedom. And above is a young man who isn’t afraid of her, whose eyes linger not with fear, but with an understanding of who she is beneath the poison.
Soraya thought she knew her place in the world, but when her choices lead to consequences she never imagined, she begins to question who she is and who she is becoming…human or demon. Princess or monster.
by Shea Ernshaw
This is another “cozy creepy” book. Plan to read it during the winter because the snowy vibes are immaculate. I wouldn’t say that it’s scary but there are definitely some eerie moments. Just enough to make you pull your blanket a little closer.
From New York Times bestselling author of The Wicked Deep comes a haunting romance perfect for fans of Practical Magic, where dark fairy tales and enchanted folklore collide after a boy, believed to be missing, emerges from the magical woods–and falls in love with the witch determined to unravel his secrets.
Be careful of the dark, dark wood…Especially the woods surrounding the town of Fir Haven. Some say these woods are magical. Haunted, even.
Rumored to be a witch, only Nora Walker knows the truth. She and the Walker women before her have always shared a special connection with the woods. And it’s this special connection that leads Nora to Oliver Huntsman–the same boy who disappeared from the Camp for Wayward Boys weeks ago–and in the middle of the worst snowstorm in years. He should be dead, but here he is alive, and left in the woods with no memory of the time he’d been missing.
But Nora can feel an uneasy shift in the woods at Oliver’s presence. And it’s not too long after that Nora realizes she has no choice but to unearth the truth behind how the boy she has come to care so deeply about survived his time in the forest, and what led him there in the first place. What Nora doesn’t know, though, is that Oliver has secrets of his own–secrets he’ll do anything to keep buried, because as it turns out, he wasn’t the only one to have gone missing on that fateful night all those weeks ago.
For as long as there have been fairy tales, we have been warned to fear what lies within the dark, dark woods and in Winterwood, New York Times bestselling author Shea Ernshaw, shows us why.
Lost in the Never Woods
by Aiden Thomas
Peter Pan, but make it a little nefarious. This one had some fantastic plot twists and the fast pace made it really easy to read in one sitting. I’m kind of desperate for this to not be stand-alone and I’m hoping Aiden decides to expand it in the future!
When children go missing, people want answers. When children go missing in the small coastal town of Astoria, people look to Wendy for answers.
It’s been five years since Wendy and her two brothers went missing in the woods, but when the town’s children start to disappear, the questions surrounding her brothers’ mysterious circumstances are brought back into light. Attempting to flee her past, Wendy almost runs over an unconscious boy lying in the middle of the road, and gets pulled into the mystery haunting the town.
Peter, a boy she thought lived only in her stories, claims that if they don’t do something, the missing children will meet the same fate as her brothers. In order to find them and rescue the missing kids, Wendy must confront what’s waiting for her in the woods.
by VE Schwab
A little bit of Secret Garden with a whole lot of Haunted Mansion, and a main character that doesn’t speak. There are illustrations in this book, which made it stand out so much to me. It feels slightly more like middle grade but I’d like to say that it’s ageless more than anything else.
Everything casts a shadow. Even the world we live in. And as with every shadow, there is a place where it must touch. A seam, where the shadow meets its source.
#1 New York Times–bestselling author V. E. Schwab weaves a dark and original tale about the place where the world meets its shadow, and the young woman beckoned by both sides. The Secret Garden meets Crimson Peak in this stand-alone novel perfect for readers of Holly Black and Neil Gaiman.
Olivia Prior has grown up in Merilance School for Girls, and all she has of her past is her mother’s journal—which seems to unravel into madness. Then, a letter invites Olivia to come home to Gallant. Yet when Olivia arrives, no one is expecting her. But Olivia is not about to leave the first place that feels like home; it doesn’t matter if her cousin Matthew is hostile, or if she sees half-formed ghouls haunting the hallways.
Olivia knows that Gallant is hiding secrets, and she is determined to uncover them. When she crosses a ruined wall at just the right moment, Olivia finds herself in a place that is Gallant—but not. The manor is crumbling, the ghouls are solid, and a mysterious figure rules over all. Now Olivia sees what has unraveled generations of her family, and where her father may have come from.
Olivia has always wanted to belong somewhere, but will she take her place as a Prior, protecting our world against the Master of the House? Or will she take her place beside him?
New York Times–bestselling author V. E. Schwab crafts a vivid and lush novel that grapples with the demons that are often locked behind closed doors. An eerie, stand-alone saga about life, death, and the young woman beckoned by both. Readers of Neil Gaiman, Holly Black, Melissa Albert, and Garth Nix will quickly lose themselves in this novel with crossover appeal for all ages.
The Night Circus
by Erin Morgenstern
As I mentioned for The Starless Sea, Morgenstern’s novels are best enjoyed as audiobooks. This one also has a full cast! It’s very whimsical and magical, with a touch of darkness.
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 performers to the patrons, hang in the balance, suspended as precariously as the daring acrobats overhead.
Written in rich, seductive prose, this spell-casting novel is a feast for the senses and the heart.
The Afterlife of Holly Chase
by Cynthia Hand
I’ve read this book each December for the past several years because I love it so much. It’s a YA reimagining of A Christmas Carol (which, though not my favorite holiday story, makes a great jumping-off point for this novel) and is honestly so much fun.
On Christmas Eve five years ago, seventeen-year-old Holly Chase was visited by three Ghosts who showed her how selfish and spoiled she’d become. They tried to convince her to mend her ways. She didn’t. And then she died.
Now she’s stuck working for the top-secret company Project Scrooge—as their latest Ghost of Christmas Past. So far, Holly’s afterlife has been miserable. But this year’s Scrooge is different. This year’s Scrooge might change everything…
The Afterlife of Holly Chase is a witty, poignant, and insightful novel about life, love, and seizing second (or third) chances, perfect for listeners who loved Before I Fall or Dash & Lily’s Book of Dares.
Wild is the Witch
by Rachel Griffin
I’ve never been to the Pacific Northwest, but Rachel’s books make me feel like I’m living there while I’m reading. They completely envelop you in the atmosphere of the book. This one gave me a completely different version of witches than anything else I’d read before and I loved it!
From the New York Times bestselling author of The Nature of Witches comes an enemies-to-lovers contemporary fantasy standalone.
After a night of magic turns deadly, Iris Gray vows to never let another person learn she’s a witch. It doesn’t matter that the Witches’ Council found her innocent or that her magic was once viewed as a marvel—that night on the lake changed everything. Now settled in Washington, Iris hides who she really is and vents her frustrations by writing curses she never intends to cast. And while she loves working at the wildlife refuge she runs with her mother, she loathes Pike Alder, the witch-hating aspiring ornithologist who interns with them.
When Pike makes a particularly hurtful comment, Iris concocts a cruel torment for him. But just as she’s about to dispel it, an owl swoops down and steals the curse before flying far away from the refuge. The owl is a powerful amplifier, and if it dies, Iris’s dark spell will be unleashed not only on Pike, but on everyone in the region.
Forced to work together, Iris and Pike trek through the wilderness in search of the bird that could cost Pike his life. But Pike doesn’t know the truth, and as more dangers arise in the woods, Iris must decide how far she’s willing to go to keep her secrets safe.
The Drowned Woods
by Emily Lloyd-Jones
Set in the same world as The Bone Houses, this book makes you rethink everything you’ve ever known about heist stories. It’s adventurous, diverse, and has a corgi that can sniff out magic! A must-read.
Once upon a time, the kingdoms of Wales were rife with magic and conflict, and eighteen-year-old Mererid “Mer” is well-acquainted with both. She is the last living water diviner and has spent years running from the prince who bound her into his service. Under the prince’s orders, she located the wells of his enemies, and he poisoned them without her knowledge, causing hundreds of deaths. After discovering what he had done, Mer went to great lengths to disappear from his reach. Then Mer’s old handler returns with a proposition: use her powers to bring down the very prince that abused them both.
The best way to do that is to destroy the magical well that keeps the prince’s lands safe. With a motley crew of allies, including a fae-cursed young man, the lady of thieves, and a corgi that may or may not be a spy, Mer may finally be able to steal precious freedom and peace for herself. After all, a person with a knife is one thing…but a person with a cause can topple kingdoms.
The Drowned Woods — set in the same world as The Bone Houses but with a whole new, unforgettable cast of characters — is part heist novel, part dark fairy tale.
So many books from this list are on my TBR and I just need to get to them! I especially want to read Into the Heartless Wood. Another book on my radar is For The Wolf. I haven’t been in a fantasy mood lately so my fantasy TBR is growing rapidly, sadly.
It makes me SO happy to hear that you want to read Into the Heartless Wood! I hope you love it as much as I do 🙂 And so much YES to For the Wolf. The Wilderwood duology is one of my forever favorites!
Great post! I love theses Best of post from someone very familiar with the genre. You’ve given me lots of amazing ideas for books for those in my life who love Fantasy. Thanks for sharing!
Haha! It’s definitely the genre I’ve been reading for the longest amount of time. I sure hope it sounds like I know what I’m talking about 😉
I love that these are all stand alone. Wonderful list!
They really are so excellent and they pack such a huge punch in just one book!
Wow so many wonderful books on the list, I have never read a fantasy book. Sounds interesting and thank you for sharing your recommendations and reviews on which book to read or not to read. Will have to check it out! 💕
My best friend is part of a book club and she was looking for some suggestions. I will let her know your recommendations for her group. Thanks!
We haven’t read any of these, but we’ve heard great things about Winterwood.
I’ve only read 4 of the books on your list, but I LOVED all 4. That means that most of these just got added to my TBR!
Fantasy books are among my favorite!! SO many of these sound amazing! I swear, my book list grows every time I read your posts lol.
I’m thrilled to see some of my favorite books on this list. I love love love The Drowned Woods!!!
Great list! So many of these are among my favorites, Heartless in particular is such an amazing read!