My Top Underrated Fantasy & Sci-Fi Books

One of the best parts about interacting with the book blogging community is sharing the giddy anticipation over exciting new releases. Hearing about a favourite author releasing a new book, learning about a mind-blowing concept for a new series, and drooling over gorgeous, recently revealed cover art – it’s all part of the process. But sometimes in the onslaught of shiny new books, incredible backlist titles that didn’t have a huge marketing push get forgotten…which is a crying shame. Today I’m celebrating those books and rounding up a list of some of my favourite underrated fantasy and sci-fi books. Okay, there’s only one sci-fi book on here but…that’s kinda how I roll.

Let the listing begin!

Wake of Vultures by Lila Bowen

Gunslinging, horse riding, and monster hunting propel this weird western story forward, even as it explores themes of identity and belonging. Queer, mixed-raced protagonist Nettie/Rhett Lonesome is hands down one of the most nuanced and compelling characters I’ve come across in YA. This book absolutely blew me away, and while I wasn’t a huge fan of the sequel, I highly recommend reading this one – even if you don’t continue the series.

The Scroll of Years by Chris Willrich

This ensemble fantasy follows the misadventures of a married couple, Persimmon Gaunt and Imago Bone as they flee mercenaries and make their way through the Eastern Province. They fight for each other and their friends, and this book also involves a magical library. #hellyes

Borderline by Mishell Baker

Bitingly funny, atmospheric, and featuring an incredibly well executed portrayal of a disabled protagonist, Mishell Baker’s BORDERLINE is fantastic. Surprisingly, this dark story is set in LA – but the juxtaposition totally works. Not for the faint of heart but highly recommended if you’re looking for an emotional gut-punch.

Dreaming Death by J. Kathleen Cheney

This isn’t the first time I’ve raved about this book, and it won’t be the last! Combining the best elements of historical and epic fantasy, DREAMING DEATH introduces a richly detailed world and features the first blind protagonist I’ve come across in SF/F. The friendship (and hopefully, slow-burn romance) between protagonists Shironne and Mikael was a delight, and I loved the murder mystery angle of this one too. I’m dying for news about a sequel.

Invisible Planets ed. by Ken Liu

It’s not a secret that I don’t read that much sci-fi, and most of what I do read is on the mainstream side – INVISIBLE PLANETS is a notable exception. This short story anthology collects the work of China’s best science fiction writers, from the established masters to the emerging voices, all beautifully translated by Ken Liu. I was blown away by this collection and I’m shocked that I haven’t heard more people buzzing about it.

Island of Exiles by Erica Cameron

Hello, my name is Danya and I have an unhealthy obsession with Erica Cameron’s ISLAND OF EXILES. It’s only been a few months since I reviewed this one, but it has less than 100 ratings on Goodreads. THIS IS A TRAVESTY. If you’re looking for a creative, diverse, sex-positive YA fantasy with flawed but likable characters, then you need this book in your life. #justsaying

Masks and Shadows by Stephanie Burgis

MASKS AND SHADOWS is what happens when you put a bunch of restrained but secretly passionate characters inside an isolated palace outside Vienna, add politics, intrigue, and some lowkey demon summoning and shake it all up. And yes, in case you’re wondering, this is a standalone…with a slow-burn romance. I AM HERE FOR IT.

Etiquette and Espionage by Gail Carriger

Although Gail Carriger’s adult steampunk series the Parasol Protectorate gets tons of love, her YA series isn’t talked about nearly as much. It’s full of badass ladies, hilariously silly jokes and madcap adventure – and Victorian racial commentary. You need this series in your life, especially if you like audiobooks!

Have you read any of the titles on my list? What are your favourite underrated books? Recommend some good underrated sci-fi please, because clearly I need more of it in my life!

Related Posts

  • Sam Kozbial

    I love Carriger. She is a steampunk goddess for me. It’s sort of awesome that she stayed in this world for YA, NA, and adult books. I loved making the connections between each book.
    Sam @ WLABB

    • Me too! She’s one of the only authors who I can 100% rely upon to aways pull off a steampunk world, since many other writers seem to stumble with the genre. I can’t wait to read her NA duology!

  • I know I’ve been promising to read the Erica Cameron book FOREVER now, but I promise I will 100% this summer. Every time you mention it, I get all excited.
    I’ve wanted to try the Gail Carriger books too. I just need to find the time!

    • Hooray! I hope I haven’t hyped it up too much, but on the other hand…I just know you’re going to love it. Especially the main love interest. 😉

      Gail Carriger’s books are SO FUNNY. Highly recommend them all, but Soulless, the first book in her adult series, is my favourite one.

  • It’s cool that you’re highlighting slightly older books but I really don’t need anything else to add to my wishlist, okay???? ;D

    • LOL. I’ll try to keep the size of your TBR pile in mind the next time I write a list-based post, Lorraine. 😉

      • Thanks, Danya. I appreciate your totally unprompted thoughtfulness 😀

  • I’ve read several of these, so I’m glad to know my reading choices tend toward the “underrated.” Borderline is one of my favorite series!

    • Tammy, you always find the best under the radar books and you know it! Hahaha. I can’t wait to read Phantom Pains, I’ve heard nothing but good things so far.

  • Karen

    Neither are genres I read very often and I struggle with fantasy but there are always a few that I enjoy – like Carriger’s.

    I’ll be checking a few of these out further.

    For What It’s Worth

    • Gail Carriger is one of those authors whose writing appeals to everyone, even people who don’t normally like fantasy and sci-fi. She’s awesome! 🙂

  • I have only read one of those

  • MaddalenaSpaceandSorcery

    Much as I *loved* Carriger’s Parasol Protectorate series, I could not get into the sequel series, featuring Alexia’s daughter, so I bypassed the Etiquette and Espionage cycle, but now you’ve raised my curiosity… 😀

    • Oh no, what a bummer! I haven’t actually read the books about Alexia’s daughter yet, but if you’re in the mood for a really fun, silly adventure series (with some quite sophisticated social commentary thrown in) then I highly recommend Etiquette and Espionage! 🙂

  • The book by Lila Bowen is on my wish list and I need to buy it soon, it sounds exciting and special.

    • It’s one of the most unique books I’ve ever read! Personally I think it’s one of those “you either love it or hate it” kinds of stories – especially because Bowen has such a distinct writing style – but I was in the “love it” camp.

  • Greg Hill

    Ooh I like this post. I need more backlist/ underrated stuff, I mean I like new releases but it’s nice to find gems that have maybe been passed over some, too. Wake of Vultures reminds me of Six-Gun Tarot- have you read that? I just finished it and it’s a TRIP. I may have to get Vultures, i like a little weird west especially after reading Tarot.

    The scroll of Years has an amazing cover and I like the premise, so I’ll be checking that one out for sure. Island of Exiles sounds fantastic so I’ll be adding that one as well. Thanks Danya! 2 more for the TBR lol…

    Oh and if you want some cool scifi I just read All Systems Red by Martha Wells. Dude… that book. It’s only 160 pages (novella) but man… check it out maybe. The e- version is cheap I think, 3.99 maybe?

    • Yay, glad to hear it! I feel the same way, honestly. That’s why I’ve been drawn more and more to book blogs that review a lot of older titles, because they feel really different and special. I haven’t read Six Gun Tarot, but I’ve heard great things! Do you have a review in the works? 🙂

      Hahaha, all part of my evil plan to increase everyone’s TBR mountain! The Scroll of Years is such a great book (writing this post actually reminded me that I need to read the sequel soon) and Island of Exiles is one of my favourite reads of all 2017 so far. SO FREAKING GOOD!

      I’ve been in the mood for short fiction lately – and I’ve heard good things about Martha Wells – so on to the TBR All Systems Red goes! Thanks for the rec, Greg! 😀

      • Greg Hill

        You’re welcome, and I’m so glad you’re gonna read All Systems Red. Seriously I loved that book. And the good news is another one is coming in January and she just got contracted to write two more, both due next year. Yay!!! It was funny but serious too, you know?

        I haven’t written a review for six-Gun but maybe I should. I wasn’t even sure where to start lol. It’s awesome though. A mix of Weird West, Lovecraftian monsters, angels and even Anne Bonny the pirate (who’s the focus of the third one I guess, coming out any day now). Quite the mish-mash.

        That is high praise for Island of exile! I’ll have to bump that one up!

  • Lynn Williams

    I love this post. Wake of Vultures and Borderline are two books that I definitely want to read.
    Lynn 😀

    • Hooray, glad to hear it! Highly recommend both those reads, and I especially recommend listening to Wake of Vultures as an audiobook. 🙂

  • I remember you talking about Invisible Planets – I’ll have to check that out!

    The best underrated (and somewhat niche now I think, since it’s from the 70s) sci-fi I’ve read is “The Man Who Folded Himself.” It’s a really *weird* time travel story.

    • I think you’d really like it, especially since it gives you the chance to sample a ton of different authors (and styles). Hmmm, I like weird stories sometimes, and I can work with time travel too. I may have to check that one out!

  • I’ve read a bunch of these and I can’t agree more with Borderline. Hopefully this series gets more attention STAT. I also enjoyed Wake of Vultures, which is why I’m disappointed to hear the second book goes in a whole other direction. I don’t know if I’ll continue the series, but I have great memories of WoV at least!

    • Borderline shocked me with how good it was. Where has Mishell Baker been all my life?! I’ve got to read Phantom Pains ASAP, because I’ve heard that it’s just as good as Borderline.

      Honestly, after the way that the second book went, I’d recommend holding off on continuing the series until reviews for book 3 pour in. I’m still planning to read that one, so I’ll let you know if I think it’s worth carrying on! 🙂

  • I love The Scroll of Years. I think it flew right under almost everyone’s radar though.

    • I think you’re right about that! If I’m not mistaken, it was actually your blog that introduced me to the series – maybe in a Tough Travelling post.

  • Dang, I’ve not heard of any of these books, except the Carriger one. I have book one in the series but I’m not really interested in the series. 😀 I’m curious about the Erica Cameron book though. Great post, Danya!

    Have a wonderful weekend. =)

    Alyssa @ The Eater of Books!

    • Looks like I was right in calling these underrated then, eh? 😉 I think you’d really like Island of Exiles, Alyssa: it has fantastic world building, a flawed but awesome protagonist, a swoony love interest, and amazing secondary characters. Highly recommended!

      Thanks Alyssa, enjoy the rest of your week. 🙂

  • You know I basically have all of these on my TBR because of you. I even own Wake of Vultures and haven’t read. You’re making me feel guilty! I haven’t read half of them because they’re all really expensive to buy and so I don’t own them and neither does my library! I will slowly try and read all of these because I know you have good recs!

    • *cackles evilly* Increasing Mount TBR, it’s what we aim to do. Ugh I know, that’s the major downside with a lot of these underrated books: they tend to be quite pricey, especially if you’re buying them as ebooks.

      Thanks, Becky! It’s a bummer that you didn’t enjoy Wake of Vultures more, but I’m confident that the others I’ve got on this list will be more your speed. 🙂

  • This post sounds like my blog. I say it’s sci-fi / fantasy, but it’s really like 10% sci fi a 90% fantasy lol. I was already planning on reading Borderline, but I’m going to have to add Wake of Vultures to my TBR now too! I feel like I’ve seen that one around, but I didn’t know it was like you described. It sounds amazing!

    • LOL, it’s so true! I really should try to do a better job representing the sci-fi end of things, but I’ve only got one life and I prefer fantasy so…*shrugs*

      Bordering and Wake of Vultures are both SO GOOD! They’re very different and dark and weird, which knowing your tastes makes me think you’ll like them. Can’t wait to hear your thoughts! 😀

  • Oh hello lovely book recs! I do know Mishell Baker, and I have to admit, I found hers a little difficult to get into. Perhaps because I was listening to an audiobook? Dunno, going to try it again later.

    • Hooray for book rec posts! I think I’m going to write more of them from now on, because this was a ton of fun. Oooh, I don’t know if I’d be able to listen to Borderline as an audiobook…Millie’s voice is so distinct and raw, I think it’d be really odd as an audiobook. Maybe print would work better for you? Fingers crossed.

  • Indeed. I’ve never heard of any of these except for Gail Carriger.

    Thanks for sharing!

    • Always happy to spread the word about some of my favourite, little-known books! 🙂

  • I don’t read much scifi but I do have the first two Gail Carriger books so I’m glad to see they made your list 🙂

    • They are so much fun! Carriger does a fantastic job writing silly, hilarious stories that aren’t *too* crazy, you know? The audiobooks are fabulous, too.

  • I love Gail Carriger and that series is so cute (which reminds me, I need to read the last book!). A lot of the other ones are new-ish too but sound amazing! I’ve been feeling the western, so I’m intrigued by Wake of Vultures! Thanks for highlighting them!

    • Isn’t it the cutest?! Love Sophronia, and Soap, and Dimity, and Genevieve…the list goes on and on! I’ve still got the third and fourth books to read, but I don’t want to see the series end. You’re very welcome Cyn, hopefully you’ve got some good recs for a few underrated titles now. 😀

  • Totally fun post and it’s a good thing that literally every single one of these is already on my TBR or you’d be in trouble, missy! OKay not really but I am glad I had the good sense to already put these on my list, I’m pretty sure because of your recs. The one that really called out to me at this moment in time is Dreaming Death – I’m gonna see if I can track that one down toot sweet. Thanks for having awesome taste in books!

    • Hooray! Hahaha, what can I say? I’m a very loyal reader who consistently pushes the same group of under-appreciated books. 😉 Dreaming Death is SO GOOD! I really need more people to read it so we can gush about it, just saying. You’re very welcome! 😀

  • I LOVE THIS LIST. Thank you!

    There’s a few here that I’m adding to my TBR (you always do this!) but I’m pleased to say that I’ve actually read one of these and Island of Exiles is most definitely underrated. Hugely. I hope more people will pick this up and I cannot wait for book 2!

    WONDERFUL list and a great idea.

    • YAY! You’re welcome, Di. 😀

      Island of Exiles is TRAGICALLY underrated! I can’t believe that it didn’t get more attention when it first came out. I blame an under-funded marketing campaign, because it’s totally the sort of book that should’ve blown up.

      Thank you! I’m definitely going to be writing more posts like this one in the future.

  • Many thanks Danya for increasing the books in my TBR as always! You’ve become a pro at it 😛
    Bordeline and Island of exiles are already in my TBR thanks to you! Now I’m gonna add the others! And okay time for revenge!! You asked for a list and you’re gonna get one 🙂 😛

    ~ Otherbound by Corinne Duyvis (It’s actually fantasy and not sci-fi but it’s so amazingly diverse and refreshingly unique
    ~ The Glitches trilogy by Ramona Finn (It’s actually dystopian/science fiction. I loved the trilogy but I have a feeling it’s not for everyone..It has a very different tone/voice)
    ~ Viral Nation by Shaunta Grimes (This too is sci fi/ dystopian. I’m yet to read book 2 but hopefully it’ll be as good as book 1. Also it’s diverse!)
    ~ Series of Blood by Emma Hamm (This too is fantasy but i’m loving the series so far. But I’ll say book 1 was my favorite!)
    ~ Rise of the Chosen by Anna Kopp (Its Sci-fi/fantasy/dystopian. And it’s diverse and quite a short read. I’m still waiting for book 2 to be published)
    ~ Cyber World: Tales of humanity’s tomorrow (This was actually an anthology I read of Sci-fi stories. Some were really amazing)
    ~ The entire Writers of the Future series by Ron L.Hubbard (He actually puts together science fiction and futuristic short stories from writers all over the world so the stories are incredibly diverse. Many titles are available on netGalley I believe in the “Read Now” section.)
    ~ The Treemakers trilogy by Christina L. Rozelle (This is science fiction. I loved book 1 and liked book 2. It’s VERY different from anything I’ve read before)

    There!! Ahhh..Revenge is sweet 😛

    (P.S. Sorry about not visiting for so long! I’ve had exams and then was travelling and then was sick)