Back in 2020 summer, Jen, Arina, and I posted our 15+ favorite underrated self-published fantasy books in preparation for Self-Published Fantasy Month. That post is still doing well and proved to be popular, so now that our team is bigger and almost 3 years passed, it was time for a new list! This time we are celebrating Wyrd & Wonder Month, so if you are currently on the hunt, can we interest you with these 25 underrated self-published fantasy books? We promise they are totally worth your time!
Disclaimer: we are still not taking responsibility for accidental drownings due to toppling TBR mountains.
But before we start, you might ask (and rightly so) what do we mean by underrated?
In this case, we decided to pick books that have less than 200 ratings on GoodReads as of May 2023. Though probably many on our lists have significantly less than that.
Now that’s out of the way, let’s see our lists!
Title: The Boy Who Walked Too Far
Author: Dom Watson
Series: The Xindii Chronicles #1
The Boy Who Walked Too Far is arcane, cryptic, a touch esoteric, and brutally defies the orderly common. It’s weird, it’s really damn weird, and it’s exactly that transcendence that sets it apart.
Title: Half a Lion
Author: Palle E. K. Oswald
Series: The Half Tales #1
A brutal tale of conquest, tribal warfare and betrayal, Half a Lion satisfied my craving for the darker side of fantasy. Intricate of plot and hungry for battle, it was easy to read in one sitting. Palle‘s writing is fantastic, and his imagination even more so.
Title: The Skald’s Black Verse
Author: Jordan Loyal Short
Series: Dreadbound Ode #1
Dark and bloody, with fascinating characters you’ll break your heart on. An otherworldly mix of Norse themes and science fantasy, tied in with the power of song. Bloody and entrancing magic systems, and an author that plunders its cast, raising the suspense and tension with every page.
Title: Path of Ruin
Author: Tim Paulson
Series: Arcane Renaissance #1
Paulson’s work is the perfect counterpoint to anyone discrediting the value of SFF as “not real enough”. It builds clear parallels to our world and critiques the politics and workings of our contemporary society. How did it come to be so? Who owns the power, truly, and how and why have they seized such control?
Path of Ruin explores answers to those questions, and delivers a clever, entrancing story that garners surprise after surprise until its very end.
Title: The Demon of Histlewick Downs
Author: Douglas J. Bournemann
Series: The Dreamweaver Chronicles #1
Whether it’s the fascinating writing style, Thoren’s bold nature pulling forward the engaging plot, or the world awash in magic and religion, I’m sure every type of reader will find something to appreciate in this story.
Title: The Living Waters
Author: Dan Fitzgerald
Series: Weirdwater Confluence #1
There are no heroes and there are no villains – there are the POV characters and the other. “What if the opposite is true?” Fitzgerald’s prose seems to ask – or, “what if nothing’s handily black or white?” And… does nature need humans when there are living waters?
Title: Hotel Obscure
Author: Lisette Brodey
Series: short story collection
A wonderfully hazy, David Lynch-esque collection of interconnected stories. In a hotel so old nobody remembers its name – hence “Obscure” – people live, die, visit, change… Twilight Zone meets Julio Cortázar. (Also recommended: The Waiting House.)
Title: Demons, Ink
Author: Clayton W. Snyder
Raymond Chandler and Douglas Adams collaborate on adult adventures of Calvin & Hobbes’ Tracer Bullet, but with demons and with ink. This urban-fantasy-ish book doesn’t fit into any drawer, it burns the whole desk and the plaster Jesus standing on top (don’t ask). Rating: 9.666/10
Title: The Children of Chaos
Author: Trudie Skies
Series: Cruel Gods #2
There should be a competition for sequels, so The Children of Chaos could win it. If you’ve enjoyed The Thirteenth Hour but there was something that didn’t work for you – no matter what it was, it works now, and you would miss out on a LOT by only reading the first instalment in the series. My favourite book of 2022.
Title: Azalea and Syzygy
Author: Lorain O’Neil
How is Lorain O’Neil not a household name? Answer: she’s an asylum name. This is one of those books so bad they tear through the fabric of the Universe, emerge through a black hole, and redefine Art. What if the joke is on you? O’Neill asks with her awful prose and awful dialogue, covering surprisingly deep themes and never predictable. I’m sad to see this book with one GR review (mine). It deserves a wide audience of weirdos.
Title: A Gathering of Chaos
Author: Cameron Hopkin
Series: Bűnös Budapest #1 (Budapest Noir #1)
A Gathering of Chaos, balances that dark undertone you find in D&D stories with humor, horror, and friendships. The characters learn about themselves gain inner-strength and healing through their struggles. I enjoyed every page of this story.
Title: The City Screams
Author: Phil Williams
Series: Ordshaw #4 / standalone
I never regretted this introduction into Phil’s world of Ordshaw- each installment in the series is a little different in style but The City Screams will always be special- for being my introduction, and for Tova, who pushed herself beyond her boundaries despite her fears.
Title: Dim Stars
Author: Brian P. Rubin
I’ve talked about this book a lot in the last couple years because it’s a truly fun adventure suitable for all ages. I mean, really, how can you go wrong when the first mate is a squid?
Title: I Am King
Author: Damien Shillingford
I had this book in my SPFBO group a few years ago and fell in love with everything about it. I have been patiently waiting for the follow-up ever since. It has that classic-feeling fantasy to ease you into the world but it’s obvious it’s going to branch-out and I can’t wait to see where Damien takes this series. Also there is a great little prequel novella that has been published in the meantime that’s worth checking out.
Title: The Conjuring of Zoth-Avarex: The Self-Proclaimed Greatest Dragon in the Multiverse
Author: K.R.R. Lockhaven
Another I was introduced to through SPFBO. I had such a great time with this book. This was such a delightfully charming read and Zoth, is freaking hilarious in all his conceit. Also, KRR Lockhaven has the best book promo-videos out there.
Author: Bjørn Larssen
Series: The Ten Worlds #1
You know those swatch books that have every single shade of every single colour visible to human eyes inside? Well, Children is like that, just instead of colour, it shows you every single emotion you could feel. It’s brutal, heartbreaking, uplifting, redemptive, and beautifully written.
Title: The Thunder Heist
Author: Jed Herne
Series: Twisted Seas #1
The Thunder Heist was such a fun read, bursting with exuberant characters, and bristling with energy. Distilling the book down to a handful of keywords would give you; Pirates – Thieves – Heist – Sassy – Female-Lead… I mean who doesn’t want a shot of that?
Title: The Witch Hunter
Author: Casey Hollingshead
Series: Battle Brothers #1
The Witch Hunter was one of my favourite SPFBO8 reads, and a criminally slept-on Grimdark gem. While it’s bleak and violent, there’s a delicious undercurrent of dark tarry humour pumping through its rotten veins.
Title: Hollow Road
Author: Dan Fitzgerald
Series: The Maer Cycle #1
Hollow Road is a refreshingly no-frills, low-fantasy adventure that has the feel of starting a level-one D&D campaign with friends. The characters and their development is exquisite and given it’s a Dan Fitzgerald book themes of community, inclusion, and acceptance abound.
Title: The Sword in the Street
Author: C. M. Caplan
Mr Python Arms… I mean C.M Caplan, has a unique authorial voice that is used to great effect in this debut. The writing style is joyously fluid, with clinical fight scenes and some beautiful immersion-building flourishes. Overall, it’s an amazingly character-focused story with authentic neurodivergent and LGBTQ+ representation.
Author: Alex S. Bradshaw
Look, I know there are a shitload of Norse mythology inspired epic fantasy novels out there, but your REALLY shouldn’t miss out on Windborn. And this comes from someone who isn’t much interested in the said subgenre. This got a fierce female warrior who is trying to deal with her grief and ends up fighting for people she never imagined she would.
Title: Dyer Street Punk Witches
Author: Phil Williams
Series: Ordshaw #7 / standalone
Dyer Street Punk Witches made my favorite books of 2022 list, so, you know, it’s safe to say it’s pretty good. Plus, come on, it’s about PUNK WITCHES. How can it be any cooler than that?! It’s a cool mix of crime thriller and urban fantasy, if that’s your jam.
Title: The Crew
Author: Sadir S. Samir
Series: The God Dust Saga #1
I think I rarely had as much fun with a book as I had with The Crew. It has awesome characters, a lot of action, and a dark sense of humor that just appeals to me. This is Sadir S. Samir’s debut novel, and I’m pretty sure we’ll hear about him a lot more in the future.
Title: The Skin
Author: J. E. Hannaford
Series: Black Hind’s Wake #1
Another debut novel on this list, and this one is from J. E. Hannaford. The first book of a duology (The Pact is also out) about a selkie who is looking for her skin and finds a lot more along the way. It’s set in a world that has a post-apocalyptic feel to it, and it also has a lot of cool mythological beings. Definitely worth your time!
Title: Salt in the Wound
Author: Benjamin Aeveryn
Series: Rainfallen #1
Okay, this is a bit of a cheat, because Salt in the Wound was just published, so it didn’t have time yet to get enough attention. Nonetheless, I think it has a place here. Surprise, surprise, another debut novel! It’s set in post-apocalyptic England, and it’s labeled as Grimdark, but I think more in a psychological way than what you’d expect. It also has a good potential to be something really cool!
We hope you’ll check out at least one (or rather all) of these 25 underrated self-published fantasy books, as we believe they are absolute gems the self-publishing community has to offer to you. We 100% recommend all of these books and we can’t wait to hear which of these you already read or want to read in the future!
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