The cornerstone of any good fantasy novel is the world—how does it differ from our ordinary world, who has the magic, and what creatures exist. But just because fantasy novels include magic doesn’t meant they can’t take place right here on Earth. Some of my favorite fantasy novels are based on the real world, and no two are alike. Without further ado, here are five fabulous fantasy worlds, in no particular order.
- Ilona Andrews’s Kate Daniels series. What’s not to love about this unique world? Magic comes and goes in waves as a response and backlash to the escalating technology of the past millennium. And while the shape shifters are similar to those seen in many urban fantasies, the vampires are a whole new breed of brainless, mind-controlled once-human animals; the main character is a badass sword-wielding woman with mysterious, powerful magic in her blood; and many of the enemies she encounters are brand-new to Andrews’s world.
- Naomi Novik’s Temeraire series. For a novel that feels rife with magic, there’s shockingly little. In fact, there’s only one difference between Novik’s world and the real world in this alternate history set during the Napoleonic wars: dragons. Intelligent, able to speak English (and other languages), and some large enough to carry an entire platoon of men, the dragons are integrated into the world as seamlessly as any other animal—with astounding consequences on the shape of history. With a bond to a single person reminiscent of Anne McCaffrey’s dragons, Novik’s dragons work with their humans to shape the world, through war, politics, and personal motives. This series is as entertaining as it is addictive. Plus, dragons. Need I say more?
- Gail Carriger’s Parasol Protectorate series. Ever wonder how the tiny northern island of the United Kingdom grew into a world power by the 1800s? With a little help from werewolves and vampires, of course. This lighthearted alternate history couldn’t be more different from Novik’s, but it’s equally as addictive. In this world, a person’s soul, or their excess of soul, determines whether they’ll survive the change to a werewolf or vampire, and the main character is a perfectly upstanding woman who happens to have no soul at all. I love how Carriger turns the genre stereotypes on their ends in this Victorian novel, where a vampire’s attack might be frightening, but above all, it’s plain rude.
- Kim Harrison’s Rachel Morgan series. There’s a special place in my heart for these novels, since they were the first to introduce me to the urban fantasy genre. Like Andrews’s world, Harrison sets her novel in the present day, but one in which magic, and magical creatures, have always existed—even if the human population has only recently become aware of them. Add in an eclectic cast of creatures back up (and fighting) the witch bounty hunter protagonist, and this fantasy world doesn’t disappoint.
- Rachel Aaron’s Heartstrikers series. Yet another modern world transformed by the addition of magic, this world contains a little bit of everything: magic that has broken free and set up camp (and the technology still works), mages and powerful creatures of all kinds, and dragons—only these dragons can take human form. It’s a world where the most magically powerful set the rules, and survival is as dependent upon your allies as it is upon your wits and magic.
These authors’ worlds (and so many more) were my inspiration when I sat down to write my own fantasies based in the real world. Here’s what I created:
A Fistful of Evil and A Fistful of Fire are present-day urban fantasy novels where magic exists, though most people are oblivious, and the protagonist Madison Fox works in an organization whose sole goal is to hunt and kill evil creatures living hidden among normal people. With a unique magic system based on the energy of people’s souls, a diverse mix of allies and enemies pulled straight from my imagination, and a healthy dose of humor, these novels are designed to entertain fantasy readers who like magic mixed in with the modern world.
I hope this list has inspired you to add a few more novels to your to-be-read piles! Let me know if you have any suggestions for me.
Madison Fox survived her first week as California’s newest illuminant enforcer, defending her region against imps, vervet, hounds, and one lascivious demon. If her grumpy boss, Mr. Pitt, was impressed, he hasn’t told Madison. In fact, there’s a lot her boss has been closemouthed about, including the dark secret haunting his past.
But Madison’s problems are just igniting. Neighboring regions report an uncharacteristic flare-up of evil, fire-breathing salamanders blaze unchecked across the city, and Black Friday looms. Trapped doing cleanup amid mobs of holiday shoppers, Madison watches from the sidelines as dubious allies insinuate themselves in her region.
As suspicions kindle and the mysterious evil gains strength, Madison must determine who she can trust—and whose rules to follow—before her region and career go up in flames.
Sizzling with adventure and sparking with magic, A Fistful of Fire is fused with Madison Fox’s trademark blend of humor and ass-kicking action.
Madison Fox just learned that her ability to see souls is more than a sight: It’s a weapon for fighting evil. The only problem is she doesn’t have a clue what she’s doing.
Rebecca Chastain is the International Amazon Fantasy Bestselling author of A FISTFUL OF EVIL and MAGIC OF THE GARGOYLES. She has found seven four-leaf clovers to date, won a purebred Arabian horse in a drawing, and once tamed a blackbird for a day. Dreaming up the absurd and writing stories designed to amuse and entertain has been her passion since she was eleven years old. She lives in northern California with her wonderful husband and two bossy cats.
Visit Rebecca at http://www.rebeccachastain.com or
Twitter: @Author_Rebecca (https://twitter.com/Author_Rebecca)