I’m a Fake Fantasy Reader

Posted May 5, 2016 / Discussions, Features / 60 Comments

ff headerIt’s time I admit it. I’m a contemporary girl and I don’t know how to change that. In 2015, I read 93 contemporary books (51%) and… 18 fantasy books (10%). My breakdown is otherwise mostly even between genres, aside from contemporary. If someone asks me what kind of books I read, though, I always say “mostly contemporary but I like fantasy too!” It’s kind of true, but honestly? I read more mystery books last year. In 2016 so far I’ve read pretty similarly. I’ve got about half contemporary, and mystery + fantasy are tied for second with a low amount. My biggest issue with fantasy most of the time?


The mix of world-building, action, and character development has to be just right for me to stay super engaged with the story. I seem to like lighter fantasy books, where the world is not too hard to understand, or the “fantasy elements” are kind of understated. I’ve read a few complex ones and enjoyed them, but I usually lean towards paranormal or lighter fantasy compared to high fantasy. I don’t even really know what this means. I just know it’s true, without fail, that I will get easily confused and disengaged if I can’t understand the magic system or world-building. There are some books (Truthwitch) that managed to keep me engaged even when I was confused. Some other element – like the writing style or characters – made me want to keep reading. Other books (Red Queen) were impossible to get through for a while and I even read another book in the middle instead. The ending made up for it in general but the whole process of reading it took me forever.

The fact of the matter is though, I want to get more into fantasy. I want to diversify my reading choices a little more so I have a balanced amount of each genre. I don’t ever expect to have fantasy (or any other genre) take over contemporary – I mean, come on, I know what I like – but I would love to double the amount of fantasy stories I read each year.

Do you ever say you like a certain genre and then realize how rarely you read it?

I don’t know how it happens. I read widely across young adult fiction (except horror) but don’t read as many genres as I could. When I’m reading 50% contemporary romance, the rest of the genres get spread around kind of evenly… but it’s not a lot of books! I NEED MORE. I WANT MORE. There are things I know I like and things I don’t really like, so here’s a nice breakdown for you:


  • Great characters
  • Historical fiction with magic involved
  • Easier to understand world-building and/or magic systems
  • Enough action to keep me engaged
  • Faeries in general

dont like

  • Too much world-building and not enough action
  • Too much action and not enough world-building
  • Flat characters / too trope-y
  • Pacing issues
  • Story isn’t unique enough

SO GIVE ME RECOMMENDATIONS OKAY? Here are some fantasy books I liked, the elements I struggled with, and the stuff I liked. I’ll also give you some I didn’t like as much and why.

acotar falc iq mlj ros rq tbf twrecsHit me with em! If you have any kind of recs for fantasy books I might like based on the books I shared above and my ~issues~ please send them my way.

60 responses to “I’m a Fake Fantasy Reader

  1. I have no recs but am so with on this. I feel like fake fantasy reader and prefer fantasy lite. I need to not be too confused by everything going on and if it is slow that is usually a bad sign for me. I liked Red Queen but couldn’t get into the second book and I do like the ToG series. I have ACOTAR to try so we will see!

    • Yes exactly! I have to fully understand what’s going on so it’s hard to read complex, epic fantasies. I wish I could get better at reading them. I think ACOTAR was definitely lighter 🙂

  2. I can’t really do high fantasy either. It just requires too much thinking or something. I don’t like being confused, especially when reading. I am in the middle of Steelheart by Brandon Sanderson right now, and it’s pretty simple world building because it’s almost more post apocalyptic. I am hoping the action picks up a little though.

  3. I read mostly fantasy and some contemporaries and other genres. I say I love mystery but I don’t read as many as I think I do. ? Anyway, I can’t remember if you have tried Rebel of the Sands yet, but I think you would like it!

  4. If you haven’t read Grave Mercy yet I definitely recommend that one! I read the author’s afterward and the historical facts she included are all very accurate (the only added element is the convent of Deaht’s handmaidens) but the political plot is fantastic and will keep you hooked!

  5. Kristen

    I think you should try Graceling by Kristin Cashore. I give it 4 out of 5 stars but the second book Bitterblue was fantastic and I give it 5 stars. The series has a unique take on magic and special powers that I have never seen before and while there is some romance, its not the main focus of the novel or the main character.

  6. I am the same, and I didn’t realise it until now, when I read your post.
    I also like to say that I like fantasy, but now I realised I didn’t read much fantasy in my life.
    I also read contemporaries most of the time, ya and adult.
    Ohh, faeries are my favoerite creatures and if there’s a book with the with rating above 3,8 on Goodreads, it is probably on my tbr list. But the truth is: I read just a little amount of those that are on the list.

    I really enjoyed The Ireon Fey series, by Julie Kagawa. It is urban fantasy and I’m not sure if you read it.

    Almost all of those that you mentioned are on my tbr, but I didn’t get to read them yet.

    In April I had a lot of fantasy buddy reads. It came to that point that it was too much for me and I had to gave up on some, take a pause and read some contemporaries.

    YES, THERE IS ONE BOOK I RECOMMEND HIGHLY: Stolen Songbird by Danielle L. Jensen. It is one of the best books I’ve read in my life so maybe you’ll like it too.

    Sorry for the long comment. I’ll go and browse trough other’s so I could pick up some recommendations for myself. 🙂

    • So glad I’m not the only one 😀 I’ve wanted to read The Iron Fey series so that’s awesome – thank you!

      I have to take genre breaks veryyyy often! Totally know what you mean.

      Thanks for Stolen Songbird! That one wasn’t on my radar – I’ll have to check it out 🙂

  7. I love The Elemental Trilogy by Sherry Thomas. I think it has a lot of the elements that you enjoy. In addition to good world building, creepy villains, a great romance, there’s a plot twist and bang it’s suddenly historical fantasy with a boarding school and girls masquerading as boys. It’s a lot of fun, and I’ve been telling everyone that if they miss Harry Potter they should read this series. It will fill the Harry-Potter-shaped hole in your heart for awhile anyway. Book one is The Burning Sky.

  8. I don’t read a lot of high fantasy either, I lean towards thrillers and light sci-fi. But a fantasy book that really blew my mind is Daughter of Smoke and Bone. I just finished the second one today and I loved that one too. DoSaB reads kind of like a fairytale. It comes across as quite insta-lovey, but it all has a purpose and the romance is balanced with the most stunning, complex world-building and beautiful writing. The character are all fantastic and I was hooked from beginning to end because of how beautifully written it is. It’s also one of the most unique stories I’ve ever read. It had some mind-blowing twists and turns.

    I’ve seen some who say they found it a bit slow here and there but I was too busy oohing and aahing at the world and the writing to notice if that’s true.

  9. Hello, are you me??? You perfectly described the way I feel about Fantasy books. I can usually only read them if they are in audio format.

  10. I’d probably recommend Princess of Thorns by Stacy Jay (I liked it a lot better than Reign of Shadows) or perhaps Sabriel by Garth Nix (I think it has a lot of what you like and nothing you don’t).

  11. Have you tried The Great Hunt by Wendy Higgins? It reminded me a bit of Reign of Shadows in that it was easy to follow and light on the fantasy. I liked the romance too.
    I also highly recommend Sherry Thomas’ The Burning Sky trilogy. I’m not going to lie, it’s confusing, especially the first book, but the characters are so wonderful and the romance very swoony. It has some great banter and friendships too.
    How about Leigh Bardugo’s Six of Crows and her Grisha trilogy? They were the first books that got me into YA fantasy. Ooh another great one is The Siren Trilogy by Mary Weber. It has a really great balance of characterizations, world building, romance and action.
    I hope you find some good ones, Lauren! 🙂

  12. Kim

    Oh, I feel you so much! I am also a contemporary girl, and it was only after reading the Throne of Glass series last year that I started reading Fantasy book. It’s only then that I realized that fantasy books could work for me, so long as I pick the right books. I really enjoyed The Shadow Queen by C.J. Redwine (retelling) and Starcrossed trilogy by Josephine Angelini. Good luck! 🙂

    Kim @ Divergent Gryffindor: BLOG || VLOG

  13. I used to think that Fantasy was my favorite genre, but I realized last year that I read way more Contemporary. I have been trying to read more Fantasy this year though. Have you read Daughter of Smoke and Bone? That entire series is out, but I have only read the first one. I just read it last week and will be getting the other two soon. It takes place in Prague and the world building is exceptional. I also loved the characters and the way the author combined a human world with a magic world. I would also recommend The Library at Mount Char. The first 10% of that is kind of slow, but then it picks up and it ended up being pretty amazing. Hope those help.

  14. Emmah Doucette

    Hmm, you might like “The Storyspinner” by: Becky Wallace!
    I also LOVE the Throne Of Glass series and I’d start with “The Assassin’s Blade”!

  15. I am so with you — I am definitely a vast majority contemporary reader! I don’t mind magical realism (The Raven Cycle series by Maggie Stiefvater is my all time favorite) but I, too, seriously struggle with high fantasy and historical fantasy, especially. So I love this post and I’m definitely going to read all these recs!!

  16. I love this post! I feel like I’m the opposite sort of situation- I love fantasy but I feel like I end up reading more contemporary because they tend to be less polarizing (as in they tend to be all sort of mediocre rather than super great or super bad) and they’re quick, easy reads to work into my schedule, while fantasies are more of a commitment and I don’t like reading them in small spurts, I prefer to binge them. Have you read the throne of glass series yet?

  17. Hmm, I’m a fantasy addict, myself. Every now and then I try to “branch out,” but I normally only end up with one or two non-fantasy books per year. And half the times those are by accident >.<

    You've got quite a diverse list there. I'd definitely recommend reading more of Maas if you liked ACOTAR (The sequel is absolutely amazing!). You might also consider Maria V. Snyder's Study series — they're a bit on the "lighter" side and have an incredibly interesting world but it's easy to understand. Similarly, Moira Moore's Resenting the Hero series is spectacular — I give it lots of props for uniqueness, and while the world is incredibly original, it's not OVERLY complex or difficult to understand. Tamora Pierce is up there with her Trickster duo too — all of her books a great, but I think Trickster is a shorter commitment to feel like you've completed something 😉 Of what I've suggested so far, that probably has the most complicated world building, if only because it's like, the 5th series Pierce has written in that world.

    I notice most of your examples are either in entirely made up worlds, historical worlds, or futuristic worlds. Of you're interested in trying some present-day ones too, I could come up with a few suggestions. Those (at least of what I'd recommend) are mostly adult, not YA though, which doesn't really fit with your examples either. Let me know if you're interested and I'll put some thought into it 🙂

    • Haha! Well that’s good you know what you like 🙂

      I need to get going on Throne of Glass. I’ve heard great things about some of the other authors/series you mention here. Thanks for the recs!

  18. I’m definitely a fantasy addict — I try to branch out every now and then but end up only reading one or two non-fantasy books a year, and half the time that only happens by accident!

    A few suggestions to consider, based on what you’ve shared (I’m kind of listing in these order of most closely-related to what you shared, at least of the ones I’ve actually read, FYI):

    – Anything else by Maas — if you liked ACOTAR, you’ll LOVE A Court of Mist and Fury (I just finished it), and her Throne of Glass series is amazing as well.

    – The Study series, by Maria V. Snyder. It’s a relatively unique world, but it’s not overly complicated, and the development takes place over multiple books, so there’s no real smack in the face with information.

    – The Heroes series by Moira Moore (Resenting the Hero is the first book). This one is less well-known, but it’s among my favorites of all time. It’s a bit of a light-hearted read (or at least the first few books are). Completely original concept, and the world has the POTENTIAL to be complex, but it doesn’t get complicated very quickly. As long as you can keep your head straight around the role of a Source versus a Shield (as defined in the book), it shouldn’t be too confusing.

    – Just about anything by Tamora Pierce. I’d recommend her Trickster duo as a good starting point, simply because I enjoyed them a ridiculous amount, and it’s only 2 books-worth of commitment to “finish.” It IS, however, a spinoff series of a world Pierce has already written in a half dozen times, so there’s some back-story that’s alluded to, but not necessary. And it’s mostly all baked into the beginning before the plot really takes off.

    – The Grisha series, by Leigh Bardugo, is absolutely amazing. A bit more complex on the world-building side of things, and I’ll admit you probably have to push through some of that in the beginning of the first book. Once you get past it though, the books are spectacular.

    – The Others by Anne Bishop. Cannot say enough good things about these books. It’s the modern world / alternate history kind of thing. The nuances of the world are revealed in bits and pieces, and in such a way that you go “Oh wow!” at every new thing. There’s a decent chunk of orientation up-front, but it goes pretty quick, and is reinforced throughout, so if you get confused in the beginning it should clear itself up readily enough.

  19. Wow, I was just planning a post very similar to this one (but about a different genre). I have bookmarked this as an Exemplar (if I borrow anything, I’ll credit you and let you know).

    –I agree with the Sanderson recommendation, he is very meticulous in creating his magic systems and good at explaining them.
    –For something with Faeries, you could try True of Blood by Bonnie Lamer. There are LOTS of them in the series, I’ve only read the first 2 so far.
    –Rachel Aaron’s Heartstrikers series is great. Book #1 is Nice Dragons Finish Last
    –A good fantasy / scifi / action adventure option would be the Pillars of Reality series by Jack Campbell. It has a strong female lead and a great romance (but no faeries). The first one is The Dragons of Dorcastle

  20. If you enjoyed ACOTAR you will *definitely* enjoy Throne of Glass, I guarantee it! I’d also suggest The Wrath and the Dawn by Renee Ahdieh, The Grisha Trilogy by Leigh Bardugo, and, while I haven’t read it yet, I think Ruined by Amy Tintera is probably a good pick too! If you enjoy fairies, try out Maggie Stiefvater’s Lament duology (it’s her debut series though, so it’s a little clunky and typical).

  21. I don’t keep track of my stats, but I think I read about 80 % contemporary. I only pick up fantasy if it comes highly recommended from my bookish friends. As a result there are mostly 4 and 5 Stars rating for fantasy books, because they are selected; and a lot of 3 Stars rating for contemporary books.

    I’m a contemporary reader too, and I don’t feel like I want to change it. If you are not happy with the amount of Fantasy you read, I can recommend Uprooted by Naomi Novik and Crimson Bound by Rosamund Hodge. PS. I loved ACOTAR.

  22. Ah, Lauren, have I got a list for you! I’ve got a bit of a mixed bag, so you can read whichever sounds most interesting to you. But here are some fantasy titles that I absolutely adored and think you would too!

    Madly by Amy Alward
    Princess of Thorns by Stacey Jay
    The Shadow Queen by CJ Redwine
    Eon & Eona by Alison Goodman
    any and all Tamora Pierce books

  23. I also like fantasy but I’m a contemporary girl! It’s by far my favourite genre and always has been. But I also enjoy fantasy – now that I think of it I’m not sure I’ve read any or many high fantasy books. I don’t even look up for that, I just read it, it doesn’t matter if it’s ligh or high fantasy.
    I honestly think I have the perfect book recommendation for you. Seriously, forget about the recs you got in the comments for this post, I have the fantasy book you’ve been looking for! haha
    It’s called The Bird and the Sword by Amy Harmon. Why I think you would like this?
    1 – the title is awesome. not because it’s a cool name but because once you reach a certain part of the book you will think of it as awesome
    2 – the romance – Tiras (one of the protagonists is so… I don’t even know! Sweet? And there’s also character development)
    3 – the writing, OMG, the writing – And you may be wondering. Why that reaction? Is it actually that good as you make it sound? The answer is yes. Proof:
    (A) “Swallow, Daughter, pull them in, those words that sit upon your lips. Lock them deep inside your soul, hide them ‘til they’ve time to grow. Close your mouth upon the power, curse not, cure not, ‘til the hour. You won’t speak and you won’t tell, you won’t call on heav’n or hell. You will learn and you will thrive. Silence, Daughter. Stay alive.”
    (B) “You glow, Lark.” His hand climbed back up again and swept over my unbound hair. I swallowed, suddenly close to tears. Then why does no one see me? “I see you,” he said.”
    (C) “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”
    4 – It reads as a contemporary – it has the perfect amount of action and character development and the magic is really really easy to understand
    If this hasn’t convinced you to read it I don’t know what will!
    I expect to see The Bird and the Sword on one of your wrap ups. hahahahha Just half-kidding 😉
    ps: On the “website” field I put the goodreads page just to make things easier. hahaha oh my god, I’m really pushing you this book hahahah

  24. Such an awesome post, Lauren! I know I’m completely the same! It kind of makes me sad, because I used to be really into reading fantasy…but I think as time has changed, and I’ve grown up and gotten less time on my hands – it’s just easier to read contemporary for me now?
    Thank you for the recommendations! 🙂

  25. I second many of the above recommendations–Bardugo, Laini Taylor, Snyder’s Study series, and yes, yes, yes to Kristen Cashore. I’d add Rae Carson’s Girl of Fire and Thorns series, Robin McKinley (Hero and the Crown and The Blue Sword especially) Poison by Bridget Zinn (very light and fun!), Margaret Whalen Turner’s Queen’s Thief series, Chime by Franny Billingsly, and anything by Vivian Vande Velde or Alex Flinn.

  26. I had a little bit of trouble with reading fantasy at first, but now I am complete fantasy nut! There is a little bit of a learning curve when it comes to fantasy books, so I would start out with lighter ones, like you mentioned, and work your way up to the higher fantasy stuff.
    I would personally recommend A Darker Shade of Magic by V. E. Schwab. There is a far amount of magic, but it is extremely easy to understand. Plus the main character, Lila, is amazing. She is the epitome of the kick-butt female character. The story is also set in historical London, so that checks off another item on your list! I would also highly suggest Air Awakens by Elise Kova. The magic system is elemental, so it is also really easy to keep track of. There is a little bit more world-building in the beginning, but it is leveled out in the end. Not to mention the romance is to die for.
    Good luck reading more fantasy books! I hope you find some great recommendations.

  27. I love how you call it “fake fantasy” – that cracks me up! I have to tell you that I feel your pain. Even though I LOVE fantasy, some high or epic fantasy can just be so overly complicated that it makes my brain hurt. And this is coming from someone who’s a big fan of the genre. I would definitely recommend The Crown’s Game by Evelyn Skye. It’s historical fantasy set in Russia – it has lots of great Russian atmosphere and great worldbuilding, but the details are never overwhelming.

    (Oh, and I just realized that this post is really old, so you might already know about this book, but … the post was linked up on Got My Book, which brought me over here. 🙂 )

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