The 15 Best Modern Fantasy Authors Who Are Writing Today

There are so many great modern fantasy authors out there. Here are today's best fantasy writers with books worth reading.
The 15 Best Modern Fantasy Authors Who Are Writing Today

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Today's fantasy books have the capacity to hook you like never before. The hard part is sifting through the extensive number of fantasy books published every year to find the real gems.

Modern authors have honed the ability to craft entire worlds with distinct characters, unique creatures, and fascinating magic systems in ways that classic authors could only dream of.

Who are the heavy hitters of today's fantasy books genre? Not just the major names everyone knows, but also the lesser-known writers who have great stories that feel fresh and exciting?

Here are my picks for the best modern fantasy authors who you should check out right away. You won't regret it!

15. Laura Sebastian

Primary genres: Fantasy, Young Adult

Debut novel: Ash Princess (2018)

Notable works: Half Sick of Shadows (2021), Castles in Their Bones (2022), Into the Glades (2022)

Laura Sebastian's Ash Princess series—which consists of Ash Princess, Lady Smoke, and Ember Queen—follows the story of Theodosia. She must fight to reclaim her lost throne, which was taken from her when her mother was murdered and she was left imprisoned.

After the Ash Princess, Laura Sebastian gave us some standalone greats in Half Sick of Shadows and Into the Glades, as well as the Castles in Their Bones series that's even better than Ash Princess.

At a rate of one new novel published every year, Laura Sebastian has impressed me and I believe she'll only get better.

14. Melissa Albert

Primary genres: Fantasy, Young Adult

Debut novel: The Hazel Wood (2018)

Notable works: Our Crooked Hearts (2022)

Melissa Albert gave us a wholly unique world in her The Hazel Wood trilogy. The first book in the series introduces us to Alice and the world of the Hinterland, where the stories of her grandmother's book are set.

When her mother warns her against returning there, she (of course) does return—to enter that world of dark fairy tales.

Albert's story ebbs and flows and continues into The Night Country, with the dark fairy tales expanding out even further in the final book Tales From the Hinterland. The whole thing pulls you in with creepy tales and a strong heroine.

With her publishing Our Crooked Heart in 2022, it's clear that she has what it takes to become one of the best modern fantasy authors.

13. Stephanie Garber

Primary genres: Fantasy, Young Adult

Debut novel: Caraval (2016)

Notable works: Once Upon a Broken Heart (2021)

Stephanie Garber's debut three-book fantasy series—consisting of Caraval, Legendary, and Finale—is a magical ride through mysteries, a dangerous game, and illusions.

Sisters Scarlett and Tella dream of leaving their small island in search of adventure, namely to see the once-a-year performance of Caraval. Caraval involves the audience as participants, and if they win the game, they also win something they deeply desire.

But her second series—starting with Once Upon a Broken Heart—is even better than the first, proving that she has a solid future ahead of her as one of the most promising modern fantasy authors.

12. Emily R. King

Primary genres: Fantasy

Debut novel: The Hundredth Queen (2017)

Notable works: Before the Broken Star (2019), Wings of Fury (2021)

As of this writing, Emily R. King has two completed fantasy book series and a third one still in progress.

Her first two series are The Hundredth Queen (about an orphan girl who competes with a rajah's 99 wives and courtesans) and The Evermore Chronicles (about a girl with a clock for a heart, living on borrowed time as she seeks revenge before it runs out).

And then there's her current fantasy series called Wings of Fury (about a girl who wants to claim her destiny by crushing the tyrannical god named Cronus who controls the world).

Emily R. King has proven herself to be an imaginative and clever fantasy writer, with strong girl protagonists who are caught up in stories that are captivating for more than just girl readers.

11. Victoria Aveyard

Primary genres: Fantasy, Young Adult

Debut novel: Red Queen (2015)

Notable works: Cruel Crown (2016), Realm Breaker (2021)

Victoria Aveyard caught the notice of fantasy book fans worldwide with her four-book fantasy series that started with Red Queen.

Red Queen centers on Mare Barrow, a strong heroine who discovers that she wields a special power—the ability to create and control electricity—and uses that power to free others from oppression.

While Mare leads a rebellion and helps her people, she attracts the attention of two princes who each have conflicting motives, and that complicates matters for her.

In 2021, Victoria Aveyard launched a new series called Realm Breaker, centering on a young woman who has the power to either save the world or destroy it.

10. George R. R. Martin

Primary genres: Fantasy, Horror, Sci-Fi

Debut novel: Dying of the Light (1977)

Notable works: Fevre Dream (1982), A Game of Thrones (1996), Fire & Blood (2018)

George R. R. Martin is one of the most famous modern fantasy authors, primarily for his A Song of Ice and Fire fantasy series that was adapted into the hit TV show Game of Thrones.

Inspired by the real Wars of the Roses, A Song of Ice and Fire involves dozens of sprawling families across a fictional medieval world, who each play a role in securing the Iron Throne that rules over the Seven Kingdoms. There are also dragons and ice zombies!

So, why is he ranked so low on our list? Because ever since the success of Game of Thrones, Martin's writing has slowed to a crawl and there's also zero chance he'll ever finish A Song of Ice and Fire.

Even so, we can't ignore his massive body of work that started way back in 1977 with Dying of the Light. George R. R. Martin is obviously a very skilled storyteller. We just wish he'd keep writing!

9. Naomi Novik

Primary genres: Fantasy, Sci-Fi

Debut novel: His Majesty's Dragon (2006)

Notable works: Uprooted (2015), Spinning Silver (2018), A Deadly Education (2020)

Naomi Novik's first novel, His Majesty's Dragon, set the fantasy book fandom alight when it released in 2006 and launched her popular Temeraire book series.

In this alternate history of the Napoleonic Wars, dragons are used in aerial combat! Just from that, you can tell she writes the kinds of stories that you wish you'd had in your early teens.

After that, Novik published the standalone novel Uprooted in 2015, which was inspired by her Polish heritage. It tells the story of Agnieszka, a village girl who's selected by the local wizard for her magical powers—which she doesn't know she has.

And most recently, we have Novik's The Scholomance series that started with A Deadly Education in 2020. In this trilogy, we follow the destiny of Galadriel "El" Higgins, a dark sorceress who must learn how to keep her destructive powers under control.

Naomi Novik is a standout modern fantasy author for her blend of fantasy with less-explored European elements. These stories aren't your usual medieval fantasy!

8. Philip Pullman

Primary genres: Fantasy

Debut novel: The Haunted Storm (1972)

Notable works: The Golden Compass (1995), The Good Man Jesus and the Scoundrel Christ (2010), La Belle Sauvage (2017)

Philip Pullman has been around as a fantasy writer for a long time now. Even if you don't know his name, you probably know his most famous work: the His Dark Materials trilogy.

His very first novel, called The Haunted Storm, was published back in 1972, and he's been a big influence on the fantasy genre since then. In 2017, he started a new series called The Book of Dust that also takes place in the same world as His Dark Materials.

Philip Pullman doesn't just stand out for his fictional stories, but also his conceptual and academic contributions to the world of writing as a whole, having shared important insights into his creative process.

The works of Philip Pullman have shaped more than one generation of readers, many of whom have gone from being fantasy readers to fantasy authors themselves.

7. Nnedi Okorafor

Primary genres: Fantasy, Sci-Fi, Young Adult

Debut novel: The Shadow Speaker (2007)

Notable works: Who Fears Death (2010), Lagoon (2014), The Book of Phoenix (2015), Binti (2016), Akata Warrior (2017)

Nnedi Okorafor is a science fiction and fantasy author who writes for both children and adults. She's a prolific author who writes novels and novellas in equal measure.

Mostly known for her Binti novella series and novels like Who Fears Death and Lagoon, Nnedi Okorafor's works have brought the Africanfuturism and Africanjujuism genres to a broader audience.

While most of fantasy has long taken place in white European settings, Nnedi Okorafor takes us to far-distant lands inspired by Africa, which feel fresh and original while also being insightful.

6. Andrzej Sapkowski

Primary genres: Fantasy, Historical

Debut novel: Blood of Elves (1994)

Notable works: The Tower of Fools (2002), Season of Storms (2013)

Andrzej Sapkowski is best known for his six-novel The Witcher series, which started with Blood of Elves in 1994 (translated to English in 2008) and was eventually adapted into the award-winning video games.

The series centers on a man named Geralt of Rivia, one of many witchers who have been trained to become supernatural monster hunters for hire.

The expansive worldbuilding in The Witcher was inspired by Andrzej Sapkowski's Polish heritage, resulting in a genuinely unique universe that's unlike most medieval fantasy stories.

The Witcher actually started as a short story that was written for a writing contest held by Polish fantasy magazine Fantastyka in 1986. It has since grown into one of the most beloved fantasy franchises in modern entertainment.

5. Holly Black

Primary genres: Children's, Fantasy, Young Adult

Debut novel: Tithe: A Modern Faerie Tale (2002)

Notable works: The Field Guide (2003), White Cat (2010), The Iron Trial (2014), The Cruel Prince (2018)

Holly Black has been writing for over two decades, but she didn't explode in popularity until 2018 when she published the first book in her The Folk of the Air series.

The trilogy—which consists of The Cruel Prince, The Wicked King, and The Queen of Nothing—centers on the character of Jude and her adventures in the dangerous High Court of Faerie.

There's also The Spiderwick Chronicles, which started in 2003 with The Field Guide, written collaboratively with Tony DiTerlizzi.

Those might be great entry points, but don't overlook her other stories. She's written quite a bit over the years, including the Curse Workers series, the Modern Faerie Tales series, and the Stolen Heir series.

4. Ilona Andrews

Primary genres: Fantasy, Romance, Sci-Fi

Debut novel: Magic Bites (2007)

Notable works: On the Edge (2009), Clean Sweep (2013), Iron and Magic (2018), Blood Heir (2021)

Ilona Andrews is no stranger to fantasy and magic. She's already penned five different book series—including Hidden Legacy, Innkeeper Chronicles, Ryder, Kate Daniels, and The Edge—and each one is a unique world with memorable characters.

What you might not know is that Ilona Andrews is actually the pen name used by a husband-and-wife duo! Given both perspectives, that might explain how they do romance fantasy so well.

But whether you like romance or not, you won't be disappointed by their stories, which are all framed by magic in inventive ways.

I'm particularly partial to the Innkeeper Chronicles series, which has a wonderful premise about an inn that fronts as a bed-and-breakfast while housing otherworldly visitors.

3. Sarah J. Maas

Primary genres: Fantasy, Romance, Young Adult

Debut novel: Throne of Glass (2012)

Notable works: A Court of Thorns and Roses (2015), House of Earth and Blood (2020)

Sarah J. Maas is a huge name in the fantasy genre right now. You might know her for either Throne of Glass or A Court of Thorns and Roses, which are her two most successful series.

She's currently wrapping up her acclaimed Crescent City series, which started with House of Earth and Blood in 2020 and blew everyone away. It's one of the highest-rated modern fantasy series on Goodreads!

And why wouldn't it be? Sarah J. Maas has the incredible talent of writing stories that are fun to read, led by strong female characters, with elements of romance woven in without being overly tropey.

Sarah J. Maas has proven herself, not just as one of the greatest female writers in fantasy, but as one of the strongest modern fantasy authors, period. Give her a read if you haven't already!

2. Neil Gaiman

Primary genres: Fantasy, Horror, Sci-Fi

Debut novel: Good Omens (1990)

Notable works: Stardust (1999), American Gods (2001), Coraline (2002), The Graveyard Book (2008), The Ocean at the End of the Lane (2013), Norse Mythology (2017)

How could we not include Neil Gaiman? With works like American Gods, Stardust, and The Graveyard Book under his belt, he's easily one of the most uniquely creative fantasy writers out there today.

And what's more impressive is that he doesn't just stick to traditional novels, novellas, and short stories.

Gaiman's talents have served the world in many forms, including comic books (The Sandman), graphic novels (Norse Mythology), illustrated children's books (Coraline). He's even read four of his own audiobooks!

Neil Gaiman's works often involve identity as a core theme, while engaging with other prominent themes like belonging, family, the nature of evil, and supernatural entities in the real world.

All of this comes together to make Neil Gaiman one of the most popular current fantasy authors, and I personally see no end in sight for him.

1. Brandon Sanderson

Primary genres: Fantasy, Sci-Fi, Young Adult

Debut novel: Elantris (2005)

Notable works: Mistborn: The Final Empire (2006), The Way of Kings (2010), Steelheart (2013), Skyward (2018), Tress of the Emerald Sea (2023)

Brandon Sanderson is perhaps the most famous of modern fantasy authors, and for many good reasons.

First and foremost, there's the existence of the Cosmere, Sanderson's fictional universe that ties together most of his fantasy works, including Elantris, Mistborn, The Stormlight Archive, and Tress of the Emerald Sea.

He's also notable for completing Robert Jordan's The Wheel of Time epic fantasy series after Jordan passed away. He was hand-picked by Jordan's own wife Harriet McDougal, and he used Jordan's notes to bring a satisfying conclusion to the sprawling series.

He's also respected for his aid and encouragement towards budding writers, including his Writing Excuses podcast and his creative writing lectures that are freely available on YouTube.

He's also known for Sanderson's Laws of Magic, which describes the difference between "hard magic" and "soft magic" in speculative fiction, along with how to make magic serve the story well.

But he's perhaps most famous for being a prolific writing machine. In less than two decades, he's published 31 novels, 18 novellas, four graphic novels, and many short stories.

Love him or hate him, Brandon Sanderson has grown into the face of modern fantasy literature and his influence stretches far beyond the genre, inspiring writers of all kinds to write more.

There's no doubt about it: of all the best modern fantasy authors who are writing today, Brandon Sanderson is the most iconic.