Book Recommendations – Fantasy

These are the rarest of the rare. Not only did these Fantasy books survive the rigors of ImmerseOrDie’s 40-minute treadmill challenge, they were also subjected to a full start-to-finish read and came out with flying colors. Books in this category carry the highest rating we know how to give: guaranteed not to suck.

With all the crud floating around in the indie publishing swamp, we hope you’ll help reward the few we’ve found who are doing it right—telling great stories and delivering them with outstanding production values.

Fantasy Jewels
Malus Domestica

Malus Domestica

Small town evil, big city chills.

Most horror stories are lost on me. There are so many buckets of blood being shed by so many barely-glimpsed strangers that nothing resonates. Real horror, to me, is when terrible things happen to people I know and like. Especially if I can clearly see the long, slow, but inevitable arc of their lives sliding straight toward the wood chipper. I loved Hunt's Whirlwind in the Thorn Tree, but would he hold up in horror? Well, it turns out I need not have worried, because the man is no quick-slash artist. He knows enough to give me an early taste of the stakes and then settle in to let me get cozy with the family before bringing out the knives. And the result was chilling. Forget the hags of Eastwick and Oz. If you want your witches to be really scary, put 'em right there in your home town and have them serve cookies to your kids.
– Jefferson
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The Whirlwind in the Thorn Tree

The Whirlwind in the Thorn Tree

A two-fisted, gunpowder punk must-read.

When a famous writer is murdered, his estranged son Ross returns for the funeral and is quickly plunged into the unfamiliar community of fantasy geeks and role playing nerds. And when he learns that the fantastical world of his father’s fiction actually exists, Ross quickly crosses over to hunt the killer down, but soon realizes that he may have jumped the gun, because now he’s lost in a world of gunslingers and monsters where the rules make no sense.

And he hasn’t read the books.

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Pilgrim of the Storm

Pilgrim of the Storm

The savior of mankind isn't a man. He isn't even human.

Everyone loves an underdog story, but those usually involve human underdogs. This time however, our hero is a lowly insectoid boy named Sidge, born into a race of slaves but valiantly trying to make his way in the world of his human "betters." Instead of being lauded for his efforts to fit in though, his impurity has only made him a target of derision and abuse. Surely that will fade once he proves himself, right? All he has to do is to survive a dangerous cross-country journey at the mercy of the very people who seem to hate him most.
– Jefferson

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Catskinner’s Book

Catskinner’s Book

Making a deal with the devil inside. Literally.

My most gripping reads are almost always the ones where the very premise itself grabs my attention in a choke hold, and such is the case here. Long-time loser James Ozwryck finally has a life: a small apartment, a regular job, and a steady income. There's even plenty of time for video games. It might not be much, but it's his. And to keep it, all he has to do is let a demon borrow his body from time to time. You know, to kill people. It's a pretty sweet deal. 
– Jefferson Smith

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Rust: Season One

Rust: Season One

Darkly disturbing - the way existential horror should be.

After being pushed in front of the subway, Kimberly Archer finds herself in an impossible town with a husband she's never seen before and a life she can't remember. The rain never stops, the phones don't work and the doctors think she's delusional. And that's on a good day.

Imagine Stephen King siring a love-beast upon the dead and moldering remains of HP Lovecraft. That's Rust. Right from the opening scene that leaves us questioning just what is real and what is not, Ruz plunges us full-screaming into the chaotic afterlife of one Kimberley Archer, who is either single and dead, or living in hell, unable to escape the devoted husband and child she has no memory of ever having met. This one will creep you out completely.
– Jefferson Smith

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The Vampire of Northanger

The Vampire of Northanger

Jane Austen's long-lost vampire novel.

I confess I haven't read Austen, but this modern re-imagining of her work—by translocating it into a world where vampires are real—makes me want to give her a try. My only fear is that her entirely vampireless exploits won't live up to the dark and nuanced ballet of inter-species manners that Anderson has fashioned from her more pallid offerings.
– Jefferson Smith

Check out the IOD Report here.

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The Journeyman

The Journeyman

Being dead sucks. Now for the hard part.

To Paul Reid, life as a homeless teen seems pretty bleak. But it turns out that was nothing compared to being dead. After an untimely accident takes him out of the world, Paul finds himself locked in a battle between the forces of light and dark – a battle that dark appears to be winning. And light seems too apathetic to care.

A horrifying vision of an afterlife consumed by bureaucracy, where a newly dead young man has to go up against the forces of death itself before he can rest in peace.
— Jefferson

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Century of Sand

Century of Sand

After a life of killing, can one old warrior fix a broken child?

An old warrior rescues a young girl from the clutches of an evil wizard and then flees with her into exile. It’s a desperate bid to find something—anything—that can put the world right again, and hopefully, undo whatever darkness has been done to the girl. His daughter.

With a strong blend of eastern and medieval images, this quest feels different from most other fantasies. A dark tale born from the traditions of Aladdin and Alibaba and the 1001 Nights, imagine a world that might have arisen from the Crusades and the Inquisition and then fuel it with dark magic.
— Jefferson

Check out the IOD Report here.

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The Duchess of the Shallows

The Duchess of the Shallows

The baker's girl who wanted to be a thief.

After growing up in hiding, a letter with a peculiar talisman changes everything for a young baker’s girl named Duchess, and leads her into a dangerous world of thievery and intrigue where the only thing she has at stake is her place in the world and the truth about that terrible childhood night in which she lost everything.

Duchess of the Shallows is a deceptively simple book, but rich in details. The plot revolves around Duchess, once the youngest child of a wealthy family, but forced to live in secret as the daughter of a baker after the horrifying death of her father and family. The story is driven by a single mission – a heist – in which Duchess, assisted by her street-friend, Lysander, must pull off an impossible robbery in order to gain admission to the secret world of thieves. The plot is simpule, but the world, and the characters inhabiting it, are anything but. Political maneuvering, rival factions, and power-players working in the shadows—all of this serves to create a richly textured world with depth and appeal. I was rooting for Duchess right out of the gates, and didn't come up for air until reaching The End.
— Jefferson

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