The 20 Best Mythic Fiction Books

Mythic fiction is steeped in the rich tapestry of ancient myths and legends: it weaves fantastical narratives that blur the line between reality and imagination. Drawing inspiration from the myths of various cultures, mythic fiction transports readers to realms where gods, heroes, and monsters reign supreme.

At its core, mythic fiction explores the timeless themes of heroism, destiny, and the eternal struggle between good and evil. Much like the epics of Homer, such as the Iliad and the Odyssey, mythic fiction often features larger-than-life protagonists embarking on epic quests fraught with peril and adventure. These characters grapple with their own flaws and limitations as they confront formidable adversaries and navigate the whims of capricious deities.

Yet, amidst the grandeur of divine machinations and heroic feats, mythic fiction also explores the human condition with depth and nuance. Through allegory and symbolism, it addresses universal truths about the human experience, offering insights into love, loss, and the pursuit of meaning.

In the hands of skilled storytellers, mythic fiction becomes a portal to the collective imagination, inviting readers to embark on a journey that transcends time and space. With its enduring appeal and boundless creativity, this genre continues to captivate audiences, keeping the flame of ancient myths burning bright in the modern world.

Here are twenty great works of Mythical Fiction:

The Sword in the Stone by T.H. White, [1938] “The Sword in the Stone” chronicles the early years of King Arthur, from his childhood as a lowly squire to his discovery of his destiny as the rightful king of England. Under the tutelage of the wise wizard Merlin, Arthur learns the ways of leadership and chivalry, preparing him for the challenges that lie ahead. White’s whimsical retelling of the Arthurian legend is filled with humour, adventure, and timeless wisdom, making it a beloved classic of children’s literature.

The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis, [1950] In “The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe,” four siblings stumble upon the magical land of Narnia through a wardrobe in an old country house. There, they discover a world frozen in eternal winter by the White Witch and join forces with the noble lion Aslan to overthrow her tyranny. Lewis’s classic tale is beloved for its enchanting storytelling, memorable characters, and allegorical themes of redemption and the triumph of good over evil.

The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien, [1954-1955] In “The Lord of the Rings,” Frodo Baggins embarks on a perilous journey to destroy the One Ring and defeat the dark lord Sauron. Along the way, he is joined by a fellowship of diverse characters, including wizards, elves, dwarves, and humans. Tolkien’s epic tale explores themes of heroism, sacrifice, and the corrupting influence of power, captivating readers with its richly imagined world and timeless storytelling.

The King Must Die by Mary Renault, [1958] “The King Must Die” retells the myth of Theseus, the legendary king of Athens, from his humble beginnings as the son of a king to his heroic exploits and eventual ascension to the throne. Renault’s vivid prose and meticulous research bring ancient Greece to life, immersing readers in a world of gods, heroes, and labyrinthine intrigues. Through her nuanced portrayal of Theseus and his journey, Renault explores themes of fate, honor, and the transformative power of myth, offering readers a timeless tale of adventure and self-discovery.

The Weirdstone of Brisingamen by Alan Garner, [1960] “The Weirdstone of Brisingamen” follows siblings Colin and Susan as they discover a magical amulet that thrusts them into a world of ancient legends and dark forces. As they embark on a quest to protect the amulet from the malevolent forces of darkness, they encounter mythical creatures, treacherous villains, and allies both human and otherworldly. Garner’s atmospheric prose and richly imagined world create a sense of wonder and danger that keeps readers spellbound until the very end.

Over Sea, Under Stone by Susan Cooper, [1965] “Over Sea, Under Stone” follows the Drew children as they discover an ancient map that leads them on a quest to find the Holy Grail. As they unravel the secrets of the past, they must outwit sinister forces determined to claim the Grail for themselves. Cooper’s gripping tale of adventure, mystery, and magic introduces readers to the timeless battle between the forces of light and darkness, setting the stage for an epic struggle that will unfold across her acclaimed “The Dark is Rising” series.

A Wizard of Earthsea by Ursula K. Le Guin, [1968] “A Wizard of Earthsea” tells the story of Ged, a young wizard who attends a school of magic and unwittingly unleashes a dark force upon the world. As Ged struggles to confront his inner demons and master his powers, he embarks on a journey of self-discovery that takes him across the vast and mysterious archipelago of Earthsea. Le Guin’s lyrical prose and profound exploration of themes such as power, identity, and the balance of light and darkness make “A Wizard of Earthsea” a timeless classic of fantasy literature.

The Princess Bride by William Goldman, [1973] “The Princess Bride” is a delightful tale of adventure, romance, and revenge that follows the exploits of the dashing Westley as he rescues his true love, Princess Buttercup, from the clutches of the nefarious Prince Humperdinck. Goldman’s witty prose and inventive storytelling, combined with memorable characters and a timeless love story, have made “The Princess Bride” a beloved classic for readers of all ages.

The Bloody Chamber and Other Stories by Angela Carter, [1979] “The Bloody Chamber and Other Stories” is a collection of dark and sensual fairy tales that re-imagine classic stories such as “Bluebeard” and “Little Red Riding Hood” from a feminist perspective. Carter’s lush prose and subversive storytelling transform familiar narratives into provocative explorations of gender, sexuality, and power. Through tales of passion, betrayal, and transformation, “The Bloody Chamber” showcases Carter’s unique vision and literary prowess, cementing her reputation as one of the most innovative writers of her generation.

The Elfin Ship by James P. Blaylock, [1982] “The Elfin Ship” is a whimsical and imaginative fantasy novel that follows the adventures of Jonathan Bing, a bumbling inventor, and his companions as they journey across the magical land of Faerie in search of the legendary Elfin Ship. Along the way, they encounter eccentric characters, ancient mysteries, and whimsical creatures straight out of folklore. Blaylock’s playful humour, vivid imagination, and richly detailed world-building make “The Elfin Ship” a delightful and enchanting read for readers of all ages.

The Mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley, [1983] Set in Arthurian Britain, “The Mists of Avalon” reimagines the legend of King Arthur through the perspectives of powerful women, including Morgan le Fay and Guinevere. Bradley’s novel explores themes of magic, destiny, and the clash between Christianity and paganism. Through its evocative prose and complex characters, “The Mists of Avalon” offers a feminist reinterpretation of a timeless myth, challenging traditional narratives and inviting readers to see Arthurian legend in a new light.

The Bone People by Keri Hulme, [1984] “The Bone People” is a powerful and lyrical novel set in New Zealand, following the lives of three damaged individuals: Kerewin, a reclusive artist; Joe, a Maori man with a troubled past; and Simon, a mute boy with a mysterious connection to the sea. As their lives become intertwined, they must confront their own traumas and seek redemption amidst the harsh beauty of the coastal landscape. Hulme’s evocative prose and deep exploration of Maori mythology and culture make “The Bone People” a haunting and unforgettable read.

Mythago Wood by Robert Holdstock, [1984] “Mythago Wood” is a mesmerizing fantasy novel that follows Steven Huxley as he explores the mysterious woodlands surrounding his family home, Ryhope Wood. As Steven delves deeper into the forest, he encounters mythical creatures and ancient legends come to life, including the enigmatic figure of his long-dead father. Holdstock’s atmospheric prose and intricate world-building create a sense of wonder and mystery that permeates every page, drawing readers into a realm where dreams and reality collide.

Guards! Guards! by Terry Pratchett, [1989] “Guards! Guards!” is the eighth novel in Terry Pratchett’s Discworld series, following the misadventures of the Ankh-Morpork City Watch as they contend with a dragon terrorizing the city. As Captain Vimes and his ragtag team of guards investigate the mystery, they uncover a plot to overthrow the Patrician and plunge the city into chaos. Pratchett’s trademark wit, satire, and keen observations of human nature make “Guards! Guards!” a hilarious and insightful exploration of power, corruption, and the absurdities of life.

The Famished Road by Ben Okri, [1991] “The Famished Road” is a haunting and surreal novel set in Nigeria, following the journey of Azaro, a spirit child who is torn between the world of the living and the world of the spirits. As Azaro navigates the streets of his poverty-stricken neighborhood, he encounters a cast of eccentric characters and embarks on a quest to understand his own existence. Okri’s lyrical prose and magical realism create a vivid portrait of Nigerian society, blending elements of folklore, mythology, and social commentary to create a mesmerizing and unforgettable literary experience.

Northern Lights (also known as The Golden Compass) by Philip Pullman, [1995] “Northern Lights” is the first novel in Pullman’s “His Dark Materials” trilogy, set in a parallel universe where every human has a dæmon, a manifestation of their soul. When her friend Roger is kidnapped by mysterious forces known as the Gobblers, young Lyra sets out on a journey to rescue him, uncovering a web of secrets and conspiracies along the way. Pullman’s imaginative world-building, complex characters, and thought-provoking exploration of themes such as free will, authority, and the nature of consciousness make “Northern Lights” a modern classic of fantasy literature.

Practical Magic by Alice Hoffman, [1995] “Practical Magic” tells the story of the Owens sisters, Gillian and Sally, who are born into a family of witches with a long history of tragedy and forbidden love. As they navigate the complexities of sisterhood, romance, and magic, they must confront the legacy of their ancestors and break the curse that haunts their family. Hoffman’s enchanting prose and vivid characters imbue “Practical Magic” with a sense of whimsy and wonder, creating a spellbinding tale of love, loss, and the power of female bonds.

A Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin, [1996] “A Game of Thrones” is the first installment in Martin’s epic “A Song of Ice and Fire” series, which follows the power struggles of noble houses in the fictional continent of Westeros. As the kingdom descends into chaos and war, alliances are forged and broken, and dark forces gather beyond the Wall in the North. Martin’s intricate plotting, morally gray characters, and vivid world-building make “A Game of Thrones” a gripping and immersive read that has captivated millions of readers worldwide.

Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone (also known as Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone) by J.K. Rowling, [1997] “Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone” introduces readers to the magical world of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, where young Harry Potter discovers that he is a wizard destined for greatness. As Harry learns to navigate the challenges of wizarding school, he uncovers dark secrets about his past and confronts the dark wizard who killed his parents. Rowling’s imaginative storytelling, engaging characters, and richly imagined world have made the Harry Potter series a global phenomenon, enchanting readers of all ages with its timeless tale of magic, friendship, and the power of love.Top of Form

American Gods by Neil Gaiman, [2001] “American Gods” follows ex-convict Shadow Moon as he becomes embroiled in a conflict between old gods and new gods in America. As Shadow navigates a landscape populated by ancient deities and modern manifestations of belief, he confronts questions of identity, faith, and the nature of reality. Gaiman’s masterful blend of mythology, fantasy, and social commentary makes “American Gods” a thought-provoking and immersive read that resonates with readers long after the final page.


And that’s our list of the 20 best mythic fiction. What’s your take on these – any surprises, or any mythic fiction novels not on this list that you feel should make the top 20?

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