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

  • 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!

  • 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

  • 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!

  • 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

  • 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… 😀

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

  • 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?

  • Lynn Williams

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

  • 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’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!

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

  • 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!

  • 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!

  • 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!

  • 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.

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

    Thanks for sharing!

  • 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 🙂

  • 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!

  • 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!

  • 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.