13 fantasy series to fall in love with that aren’t written by JK Rowling, including His Dark Materials and Lord of the Rings
JK Rowling spent the majority of 2020 airing her explosive views on trans people, trans healthcare and trans rights, much to the disappointment of LGBT+ fans of the Harry Potter series.
Meanwhile a number celebrities and organisations, including of the stars of the Harry Potter film series have spoken out in support of trans equality with Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint and Emma Watson all releasing statements.
But if Rowling’s many, many outbursts on trans people has left you with mixed feelings towards the Harry Potter franchise, then there’s plenty of other fantasy series out there to fall in love with.
We’ve rounded up a range of different fantasy themed novels below from stand alone books to entire series focusing on witches, wizards and more to get stuck into. They include books that centre on queer characters and explore their very relatable human stories alongside fantasy adventures.
His Dark Materials
The story follows orphan Lyra Belacqua and teenager Will Parry, from our world, as they wander through a series of parallel universes to uncover the secrets of a mysterious substance called Dust. It features witches and armoured polar bears as well as dæmons, which are the physical manifestation of a person’s inner-self. In Lyra’s case it’s a companion named Pan that can take the form of any animal, similar to other children’s dæmons, until they take a final form later in life.
Writer Pullman has previously supported a campaign to stop children’s books being labelled ‘for girls’ or ‘for boys’. “I’m against anything, from age-ranging to pinking and blueing, whose effect is to shut the door in the face of children who might enjoy coming in.” He said. “No publisher should announce on the cover of any book the sort of readers the book would prefer. Let the readers decide for themselves.”
More recently the trilogy was adapted into a series by HBO and BBC starring Ruth Wilson, Andrew Scott, James McAvoy and Lin-Manuel Miranda. It’s aired for two seasons and has been renewed for a third and final series covering the last book in the trilogy.
To purchase the trilogy of books go to the following links below:
Labyrinth Lost is part one in the Brooklyn Brujas trilogy series described as a ‘Latinx-infused queer fantasy’ that follows three sisters who are teen witches. The first book centres on Alex, a bruja and the most powerful witch in her family, but she’s hated magic ever since it made her father disappear into thin air.
While most girls celebrate their Quinceañera, Alex prepares for her Deathday, the most important day in a bruja’s life and the only opportunity to rid herself of magic. When the curse backfires and her family vanishes she teams up with Nova, a brujo and they need to travel to fantasy world Los Lagos which is as strange as Wonderland where she discovers more about herself, her powers and her family.
The second book focuses on Lula’s story and is set on the streets of Brooklyn, while the third story follows Rose and is set in the magical lost realm of Adas.
To purchase the three books in the Brooklyn Brujas Series go to the links below:
Children of Blood and Bone
Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi conjures up a world of dark magic and danger in this West African-inspired fantasy novel.
The story is set in Orïsha which was previously ruled by different clans, the Burners igniting flames, Tiders beckoning waves and main character Zélie’s Reaper mother summoning souls. But now under the orders of a ruthless king, anyone with powers will be targeted and killed leaving Zélie and her people without hope.
Zélie is one of the few people who remain with the power to use magic and has the chance to strike against the monarchy, with the help of a rogue princess. She must learn to harness her powers and outrun the crown prince who is set on erasing magic forever.
Despite the dangers in Orïsha, from the strange creatures to vengeful spirits in the waters, the greatest danger may be Zélie herself as she struggles to come to terms with the strength of her magic.
Meanwhile a film adaption is currently in the works with the producer’s of other book-to-screen hits including Twilight, The Maze Runner and The Fault In Our Stars, behind the helm.
To purchase Children of Blood and Bone go to the links below
The Lord of the Rings
The Lord of the Rings film series was released around the same time as the Harry Potter films, with the two franchises often drawing comparisons, mainly because of the fantasy themes that run through both, plus Rowling has noted JRR Tolkien’s writing as an inspiration for the Potter books.
If you’re yet to read the The Lord of the Rings trilogy or want to revisit them then 2021 could be the perfect time. This is because a new series adaption of the books is heading to Amazon Prime Video later this year after Amazon bought the television rights for a whopping $250 million.
The trilogy by Tolkien names the story’s main antagonist, the Dark Lord Sauron who had in an earlier age created the One Ring to rule the other Rings of Power as the ultimate weapon in his campaign to conquer and rule all of Middle-earth. The story begins in the homely Shire, a hobbit land reminiscent of the English countryside. It then ranges across Middle-earth, following the quest mainly through the eyes of the hobbits Frodo, Sam, Merry and Pippin.
You can purchase the book trilogy The Fellowship of the Ring, The Two Towers and The Return of the King via the links below. Plus the film series is available to rent from Prime Video here.
When We Were Magic
This novel follows a group of six witch friends – some who are queer – that need to cover up a prom night murder. It focuses on Alexis from the group who accidentally kills the boy she was about to hook up with at an after-prom party. Her friends come together to try and right a terrible wrong but after their attempts fail and their left with the remains – literally – of their failed spells they each need to find a way to live with their part of the story.
It was released in 2020 and offers a modern story of witchcraft, set against the backdrop of today’s high school as opposed to the typical dark and gothic castles and cloaks for uniform often featured in fantasy novels. It’s written by Sarah Gailey who’s previously penned Magic For Liars.
You can order the book and other works by Sarah Gailey from the links below:
The Witch Boy
This graphic novel from openly gay author Molly Ostertag explores gender identity and family. It follows 13-year-old Aster who’s family raise girls to be witches and boys to be shapeshifters and if anyone dares to cross the line then they are exiled. Aster is unable to shapeshift and becomes fascinated by witchcraft which comes to play when a mysterious danger threatens the other boys and the only way to help is through Aster’s magic. He’s encouraged by a new friend, the non-magical and non-conforming Charlie to practice his skills and gain the courage to save his family, and of course to be his true self.
The story will be relatable for many LGBT+ people who don’t feel like they fit in because they can’t conform to expectations of family and wider society and is a perfect fantasy and witchey alternative to the Harry Potter stories.
Plus Ostertag offered to draw free coverups for any Harry Potter tattoos last year in exchange for donations to the Trans Women of Color collective or a similar organisation following Rowling’s views on trans women.
I’ve spent today drawing coverups for Harry Potter tattoos in exchange for donations to https://t.co/YN9pW0qkqW – I have a bunch more to do and am not currently taking any more on, but here are some I liked from today! pic.twitter.com/m18NII8rfA
— Molly Knox Ostertag (on hiatus) (@MollyOstertag) June 9, 2020
It’s available to purchase from on paperback or hardback as well as the Kindle. Plus readers can also get Ostertag’s other books from the graphic novel series, The Hidden Witch and The Midwinter Witch.
I’m a Gay Wizard
A famous line from the Harry Potter books is ‘yer a wizard Harry’, well how about ‘yer a gay wizard’? This book by VS Santoni follows gay angsty teen Johnny and his best friends, trans girl Alison who spend their summer dabbling in magic.
After the pair use spells to defend themselves from bullies, they find themselves whisked away to the Marduk Institute, a school for wayward wizards. They need to adapt to a new world of spells, fraternities and cute boys like Hunter and Blake.
But the school isn’t just spells and crushes as they’re pulled into a supernatural fight for their lives and need to find the strength to battle the monsters lurking in the shadows alongside the demons that only exist in their head.
Since its release Santoni has written a sequel entitled I’m a Gay Wizard in the City of the Nightmare King, so hopefully an entire franchise featuring LGBT+ wizards is on the way that can rival the Potter books.
To purchase I’m a Gay Wizard and its sequel go to the links below:
The Secret of Platform 13
Released three years before the first Harry Potter book, Eva Ibbotson’s The Secret of Platform 13 sees characters pass through a railway platform in King’s Cross Station to enter their own secret world.
If that sounds hauntingly familiar to the fantasy series about The Boy Wizard then you wouldn’t be mistaken, as Harry and co pass through Platform 9 and ¾ at King’s Cross to get the Hogwarts Express at the beginning of each school year.
However there are differences in the plot and characters as the magical kingdom is an island with humans living happily among feys, mermaids, ogres and more. The island is only accessible when the door opens for nine days every nine years. And in this story a Mrs Trottle kidnaps the prince of the island and takes him back to London, which means an ogre, a hag, a wizard and a fey need to troop around the capital to rescue him.
Ibbotson’s book has gained more recognition following the release of Harry Potter with some critics claiming that Rowling has plagiarised it, but Ibbotson has disputed this and says that writers often borrow from each other.
The Secret of Platform 13 is available from the links below:
The Magicians trilogy by Lev Grossman follows Quentin Coldwater who’s life is changed forever when he turns up for his entrance interview to Princeton University only to find his interviewer dead. He discovers an envelope which leads him down a different path, to study at Brakebills which is a secret college of modern-day sorcerers.
He heads into a world of freedom and power but some are more seductive and dangerous than sorcery, and he is drawn into a world far darker than he ever imagined in this twisted tale that would frighten the characters in Harry Potter.
Since the release of the trilogy there’s also been a graphic novel spin-off entitled Alice’s Story and comic book versions. It’s also been adapted into a television series on SyFy. There’s five seasons altogether and they’re available to stream on Amazon Prime Video for Prime members. You can sign up for a free 30-day trial and then pay £7.99 per month or cancel your subscription.
To purchase the first book in the series and its sequels go to the links below:
The Mermaid, the Witch and the Sea
In this queer fantasy novel by Maggie Tokuda-Hall a girl named Flora takes on the identity of Florian the man to earn respect aboard the pirate ship, Dove. While on the voyage across a fantasy world she’s drawn to Lady Evelyn Hasegawa who is headed to a dreaded arranged marriage. The pair begin to fall in love and set in motion an escape plan that will free a captured mermaid, include the mysterious Pirate Supreme, an opportunistic witch, double agents and the Sea herself in this fantasy-adventure.
The debut novel from Tokuda-Hall features a diverse cast of characters and searches for answers to big questions about identity, power and love.
The Mermaid, the Witch and the Sea is available to purchase via the links below:
The Southern Vampire Mysteries
This series from Charlaine Harris focuses on vampires but as it unfolds – there’s 13 books altogether – readers are introduced to weres and shapeshifters, fairies, telepaths and wiccans and witches.
The series starts off from the view point of Sookie Stackhouse, a waitress and telepath in the fictional town of Bon Temps in Louisiana. In the beginning of the story, vampires have existed openly in society for a couple of years which has garnered strong backlash from some communities, while other supernatural beings become public later in the series.
Once you’ve finished the books there’s also a television series to get stuck into. It’s under a different title that might be more familiar, True Blood. There’s seven seasons in total and it has often been noted as an allegory for the LGBT+ rights movement. This is through the vampires struggle for equal rights in society and phrases including ‘God Hates Fangs’ and ‘coming out of the coffin’ that is used throughout, plus it also features a number of queer characters including Lafayette played by the late Nelsan Ellis.
To purchase the book series go to the links below and to stream the show you can find out more here.
A Darker Shade of Magic
If you’re after another fantasy magic series rather than a standalone book then A Darker Shade of Magic will be perfect for you.
The story by V. E. Schwab follows Kell, who is one of the last Travelers magicians with a rare ability to travel between parallel Londons. There’s Grey London, which is dirty, crowded and without magic and is home to the mad King George III. There’s Red London, where life and magic are revered, White London which is ruled by whoever has murdered their way to the throne. And once upon a time there was Black London, which readers will find out more about.
Once you’ve finished part one you can read A Gathering of Shadows and A Conjuring of Light where the story continues.
To purchase the three books in the series go to the links below:
The Wizards of Once
The Wizards of Once by Cressida Cowell is a four-part book series that is aimed at children but can be enjoyed by all ages.
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The story follows Xar, son of the King of Wizards who can’t cast a single spell and Wish, daughter of the Warrior queen who owns a banned magical object. The pair are from opposing worlds and are taught to hate each other from birth, but when they collide in the wildwood on the trail of a deadly witch it begins the start of a grand adventure that might change the fabric of their worlds.
There’s been four books released in total including the original, Twice Magic, Knock Three Times while the fourth part, Never and Forever was released recently in September 2020.
Cowell also penned the How to Train Your Dragon book series which has been adapted for the screen including the award-winning movies and a television show that ran for eight seasons.
To purchase the four books in The Wizards of Once series go to the links below:
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