Booknest.EU has been an amazing source of fantastic reads for me over the years, both in terms of recommendations by other reviewers and books that I've acquired to read for them. However, it can sometimes get overwhelming trying to keep pace with all the releases. As such, I'm going to provide ten recommended books that I've reviewed for this website. Even more so, I'm going to focus on the indie self-published and small(er) press volumes because there's a lot of hidden gems I wouldn't have found without my friends here.
I hope you enjoy. Every book here is a winner.
Exile is a solid piece of fantasy that I think everyone should check out if they just want a short, low stakes adventure. A nobleman has been kidnapped by one of his rivals and his family can't afford the ransom. They can, however, send a team of errant knights to get him back. I really enjoyed this work and it reminded me a bit of Clint Eastwood's Dollars trilogy, only with fantasy characters.
Urban fantasy is an oversaturated market but that's because there's so much awesome about the genre. Damoren, though, is a novel that stands out among the multitudes. Damoren is about the adventures of Matt Hollis, supernatural gunslinger and the mysterious Valudcan society that protects the world from demons. They're a fascinating bunch of antiheroes and this is a solid work of adventure fantasy.
A Wizard's Forge is a dark inversion of a typical fantasy heroine's journey. Its young bookish protagonist finds herself kidnapped, enslaved, brainwashed, and liberated in short order. The scars from her imprisonment last, though, and force her to cope with Stockholm Syndrome as well as PTSD. These subjects are rarely handled in fantasy and this book handles them well. It may have some triggering elements for readers but the subject matter is deep as well as fascinating.
Mercury's Son by Luke Hindmarsh is a work of dystopian science fiction that I strongly enjoyed. The Earth has been devastated in an environmental disaster and a radical Luddite cult has taken over. The cult is hypocritical, though, and employs a cyborg agent to enforce his will. Our protagonist lacks memories of his past but slowly starts to uncover the truth as his investigation of a murder reveals just how much he's been lied to over the years. Very Blade Runner-esque.
Seraphina's Lament is a fantasy novel set in a fictionalized version of Stalinist Russia. A revolution has overthrown the monarchy and a brutal leader has outlawed religion as well as instituted draconian policies that kill millions. Worse, a terrifying famine has stricken the land and resulted in a curse that causes the dead to rise as hungry zombies. The cast is a bit too interconnected but I'm all for the next book.
Ulff Lehmann is a writer that manages to weave an awesome collection of battles, characters, and lore that I've absolutely loved. Shattered Dreams is the story of a traumatized veteran, an invasion of a kingdom, the return of magic, and numerous other fantasy tropes that are given new life in his words. This is a series I recommend reading back-to-back as it flows continuously from one volume to the next.
The Immortal Treachery series begins with a bang and continues on for numerous other volumes. Vykers is a man who was once the most feared and dangerous killer alive but age has dulled his edge. Pulled out of retirement for one last job against a man with seemingly supernatural rage as well as power, he finds himself overwhelmed. Recruiting a group of peasants to help him undermine his opponent, he soon finds himself the leader of a resistance against a cause he never wanted. Solid writing by Batchelder.
M.L. Spencer is one of my all-time favorite indie authors. I'm a huge fan of her Rhenwars Saga books and her recent Chains of Blood. Darkmage is the start of the Rhenwars Saga with the explosive premise of a ragtag band of heroes failing to save the world in prequel Darkstorm. Now, the world is faced with a new threat that will either bring a new age of peace or finish off the survivors. Darien is an excellent protagonist and I think anyone who wants to read dark fantasy without the gratuitousness will find this an awesome series.
One of my all-time favorite indie novels, Rob Hayes created a fantastic world in his Ties That Bind series but tops himself with a perfect premise: grimdark pirates! A aging pirate and conman wishes to become king of his own realm so he starts roping his fellow buccaneers into a mad plan to establish one. However, is he actually planning to create a free state for free men or just planning to sell them high and dry? It has some truly dark elements and ultraviolent scenes but is an excellent work from beginning to end.
Choosing the top book for this list was a very difficult task as there were so many wonderful choices I could have gone with. Indeed, my runner up list for this series would have made it my "Top 100 Indie Fantasy Book Recommendations." However, since I had to pick, I'm going with this. Kings of Paradise is a magnificent novel from beginning to end. The story of a volcanic wasteland, an honor-bound people, a deformed mystic, a beautiful priestess, and a spoiled prince as well as the tropical promised land that unites them. This is a fantasy legend in the making.