Five Fantasy Books You’ve Never Heard Of

Tired of the usual stuff? Here’s five fantasy classics that you may have missed.

Jirel of Joiry, by C. L. Moore. If you love Red Sonja, Jirel is the heroine for you, worthy of company with Conan or Imaro. Indiana-born Moore was one of the first women to write in the sword and sorcery genre.

Tomoe Gozen, by Jessica Amanda Salmonson. Another strong woman is embodied in Tomoe Gozen, a samurai in the first of a trilogy set in a richly-realized and fabulous 12th century Japan.

Unquenchable Fire by Rachel Pollack. Beautiful and ornate, set in an alternate America that seems sadly unlikely, this is a fabulous take on spirituality today.

Monday Begins on Saturday, by Arkadi and Boris Strugatski. A young computer programmer is recruited for a Russian Institute devoted to the paranormal in a book that’s more Office Space than X-Files. One of my top ten favorite books of all time.

Green Phoenix, by Thomas Burnett Swann. Swann is sadly neglected and all of his books are worth picking up, but this is one of the lovelier ones. He does more interesting things with classic mythology than most authors.

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About Cat

Cat Rambo lives, writes, and teaches by the shores of an eagle-haunted lake in the Pacific Northwest. Her 100+ fiction publications include stories in Asimov's, Clarkesworld Magazine, and Her short story, "Five Ways to Fall in Love on Planet Porcelain," from her story collection Near + Far (Hydra House Books), was a 2012 Nebula nominee. Her editorship of Fantasy Magazine earned her a World Fantasy Award nomination in 2012.
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  • Sandra M. Odell

    Mercedes Lackey’s song “Jirel of Joiry” (performed by Leslie Fish) appears on MURDER, MYSTERY, AND MAYHEM. Fun song.

  • Mary Kay

    I’ve actually read the Jirel book, and, in fact re-read not long ago. I *think* I’ve read Tomoe Gozen but am not really sure. Haven’t read the others though I have read some other Swann. I’ll be on the look out for Green Phoenix now. I don’t suppose it’s out as an ebook…

    Thanks for the suggestions!


    • Cat

      I couldn’t find -any- of the Swann as an ebook, alas.

  • Annie Bellet

    Jirel of Joiry was one of my first female fantasy introductions. Nostalgia makes me wish they were available for my kindle, because I’d buy them in a second.

    The author of Imaro also wrote stories about a female warrior named Dossouye (some were published in early Sword & Sorceress books, which is how I discovered them) and those are fantastic as well (and re-released recently I think by a small press, but again, not for my kindle, sigh).

  • Christine Purcell

    Wow. I haven’t read any of those, and I thought I was pretty up on my fantasy. Thanks for the list. Maybe I’ll put the Steampunk down for a while.

  • Kelly Robson

    Oh yes, I followed the Tomoe Gozen books nose-down like a basset hound back in the day. Like all books I love, I remember exactly the how, why and where I first came across them. They are superb books.

  • Tara Maya

    I, too, knew and loved Jirel… none of the others, though!

    Tara Maya
    The Unfinished Song: Initiate