Winter Is Coming: 26 Snowbound Sci-Fi & Fantasy Books For Cold Nights


Photo by Steve Halama on Unsplash

Halloween is over, we’ve turned the clocks back, and it’s getting dark earlier and earlier. Regardless of what the thermometer says, winter is just around the corner, and we’ve scraped up a list of wintry science fiction, fantasy, horror, and speculative reads perfect for the colder months.

Some of these are set on icy planets, others use winter storms as key plot points, and some are just plain chilling – but all of these books will have you huddling up under the covers this winter.

  • The cover of the book Spinning Silver

    Spinning Silver

    A Novel

    Naomi Novik’s inventive retelling of the Rumpelstiltskin story is as chilly as they come. The cold in this story is layered, describing everything from the environs of the town where Miryem, our protagonist, lives to the coldness of Miryem’s heart as she reclaims the money her kind father lent his neighbors to the clinking of cold hard coins against one another. Especially cold is the fearsome fairy king who threatens to freeze Miryem if she fails to turn silver into gold. But there’s a warm heart of human kindness beating at the center of this book, and you absolutely shouldn’t miss it.

  • The cover of the book Ice


    50th Anniversary Edition

    An underappreciated mid-century masterpiece, Anna Kavan’s Ice has returned to the world in a brand-new edition with a foreword by Jonathan Lethem. In a frozen apocalyptic wasteland, an nameless narrator searches for a silver-haired girl, seeking to free her from captivity before the ice closes in once and for all. The book grapples with climate change, totalitarianism, feminism, trauma, and addiction, and, fifty years on, remains as resonant as it ever was.

  • The cover of the book The Iron Ghost

    The Iron Ghost

    Wydrin, Sebastian, and Frith return in the sequel to Williams’ The Copper Cat – but this time they’re off to Skaldshollow, among the frozen mountains, to retrieve a magical artifact. Complete with mages, walking stones, ancient magic, and swashbuckling epic fantasy goodness, this wintry read still gets the blood flowing.

  • The cover of the book Cold Welcome

    Cold Welcome

    Ky Vatta is coming home. But where she should be greeted with a hero’s welcome, she finds herself crash-landing into a frigid ocean, and when she pulls herself and a motley group of survivors to (relative) safety, she finds herself isolated and totally exposed to the brutal elements. Moon blends military sci-fi and a race-against-time survival narrative beautifully, and you’ll find yourself pulling the blankets up closer as you read another installments in Vatta’s exploits.

  • The cover of the book NOS4A2


    Charlie Manx loves Christmas almost as much as he loves children, but he’s not exactly the Santa Claus type. Instead, he steals children and spirits them away into Christmasland, his own personal dimension where every day is a horrifying, brutal holiday. Vic McQueen was the only child who ever got away from Manx, and that’s just fine with her – until the day Manx comes after her son.

  • The cover of the book Stranded


    Bracken MacLeod’s novel tells the tale of a ship trapped in the Arctic ice. As the crew falls ill and all hope of communication dwindles, the last able-bodied crew members climb down onto the ice and snow to try to make their way towards safety – whatever form that may take.

  • The cover of the book Mother of Winter

    Mother of Winter

    A later installment in Barbara Hambly’s well-loved Darwath series, this novel is a particularly creepy entry in the “neverending winter” subgenre. As the world grows increasingly colder, and a strange fungus that causes murderous impulses spreads, Ingold the wizard and Gil the swordswoman travel to the mountain known as the Mother of Winter to confront the mages who may be responsible.

  • The cover of the book The Bear and the Nightingale

    The Bear and the Nightingale

    A Novel

    The first in Katherine Arden’s folklore-inflected Winternight trilogy, The Bear and the Nightingale is the story of a medieval Russian town where the old demons and forest spirits are still revered and honored – until a new priest brings Christianity to the villagers, the equilibrium fails, and misfortune after misfortune befalls the town. It’s up to the spirited Vasya to set things right, with the help of Morozko the Frost King.

  • The cover of the book The Icerigger Trilogy

    The Icerigger Trilogy

    Ethan Fortune never meant to end up on Tran-ky-ky – it’s a desolate, stormy, cold world, populated by particularly vicious flora and fauna, where every day is a struggle to survive. But with the help of his fellow castaways and one of the planet’s indigenous inhabitants, Fortune manages to stay alive through the unending winter.

  • The cover of the book A Game of Thrones

    A Game of Thrones

    A Song of Ice and Fire: Book One

    No winter-themed SF/F roundup would be complete without A Song of Ice and Fire, of course. In a world where politics are cutthroat (often literally) and great houses rise and fall with the tides, there is still no greater threat than the encroaching years-long winter and the White Walkers, powerful magical ice creatures with the ability to raise an army of the dead.

  • The cover of the book Riddley Walker

    Riddley Walker

    Two millennia after a global nuclear apocalypse, humanity has regressed to an Iron Age-level society and barely subsists in the nuclear winter. Hoban’s irrepressible, idiosyncratic narrator has become a beloved literary favorite as he makes his way through a harsh society, and speaks in an invented dialect that’s challenging at times, but ultimately a delight.

  • The cover of the book The Golden Compass, 20th Anniversary Edition

    The Golden Compass, 20th Anniversary Edition

    The first book of Phillip Pullman’s essential His Dark Materials trilogy starts in Oxford and then moves north through Trollesund, Svalbard, and Bolvangar – icy locales in a fantasy version of Europe. Most memorable of all of these is Svalbard, home of the panserbjørne (armored bears), where the climactic battle between Iorek Byrnison and Iofur Raknison takes place.

  • The cover of the book The Silent Land

    The Silent Land

    A married couple celebrating their anniversary with a ski vacation in the Pyrenees are blindsided by an avalanche on the ski slopes – and when they escape, everyone else is gone. An eerie, gentle novel about adjusting to an empty world.

  • The cover of the book Doctor Who: The Wheel of Ice

    Doctor Who: The Wheel of Ice

    The Doctor and companions Jamie and Zoe visit an industrial mining colony built on an icy ring orbiting one of Saturn’s moons. Naturally, something sinister is afoot – stories of strange creatures in the mines have the workers spooked – and the TARDIS crew must save the day before they find themselves under suspicion.

  • The cover of the book The Sunlight Pilgrims

    The Sunlight Pilgrims

    A Novel

    In the near future, the world is freezing. In the face of violent climate change and momentous social collapse, three people try to eke out an existence in Scotland, daring to hope for some kind of life. This novel’s chilling apocalypse frames a very human story about a mother and daughter and the stranger they adopt into their family.

  • The cover of the book The Winter People

    The Winter People

    In a small town in Vermont, disappearances and untimely deaths aren’t uncommon – but the dead don’t always stay gone. Called “sleepers,” they’re the dead who’ve been recalled into the world of the living by their loved ones. This deliciously creepy novel grapples with the consequences of grief and absolutely drips with atmosphere.

  • The cover of the book The Shining

    The Shining

    Possibly the definitive tale of winter madness, The Shining follows wannabe-writer Jack Torrance and his family as they relocate to the isolated Overlook Hotel in the mountains of Colorado. Snowbound by a bad storm, Jack, Wendy, and their son Danny come to realize just how terrifying isolation can be – and how you can never really know the people closest to you.

  • The cover of the book Ghost Story

    Ghost Story

    Four old friends in a small upstate New York town meet up weekly to drink, reminisce, and tell each other frightening stories. But as sinister events happen more and more frequently and a massive winter storm threatens to choke the town, they are forced to face the very real possibility that a crime they committed as young men has come back to haunt them – literally.

  • The cover of the book At the Mountains of Madness

    At the Mountains of Madness

    The Definitive Edition

    H.P. Lovecraft’s classic tale of cosmic horror in the wastes of Antarctica is a foundational stone in the Cthulhu mythos, and still terrifies to this day. A party of explorers in Antarctica discover a range of mountains higher than the Himalayas which border a city built by the Elder Things – and they’re not alone.

  • The cover of the book The Snow Queen

    The Snow Queen

    On the planet of Tiamat, there are two seasons: a long summer followed by a long winter. With the change of seasons comes a change of regime – but the Winter Queen plots to keep her power by creating clones of herself. A fine plan, until one of the clones decides to go her own way.

  • The cover of the book Endymion


    The third book in Simmons’ Hyperion Cantos series takes place partially on the harsh frozen world of Sol Draconi Septem, an ice planet where the native Chitchatuk people have adapted to the perpetual winter by building an elaborate series of ice tunnels.

    (This isn’t Simmons’ only venture into wintry settings – The Terror and A Winter Haunting are both as frigid as they come.)

  • The cover of the book Snowblind


    A ghostly snowstorm devastated the town of Coventry years ago – and the storm didn’t just bring snow with it, but something else. Now, with another storm on the horizon, strange things are happening, and old ghosts are coming home to visit.

  • The cover of the book The Left Hand of Darkness

    The Left Hand of Darkness

    Le Guin’s classic sci-fi masterwork takes place on the planet Gethen, called Winter, which is in the midst of an eons-long ice age and is covered in glaciers. The native Gethenians are particularly well adapted to the cold both physically and culturally – they’re small and robust, and make the most out of what crops and livestock they can raise in the cold climate.

  • The cover of the book The Snow Child

    The Snow Child

    A couple living in the wilds of Alaska build a child out of snow one day – and the next day, a little girl wanders into their yard and into their hearts. This short, fairy tale-inflected novel sparkles with magic.

  • The cover of the book Thin Air

    Thin Air

    In 1935, a group of young men set out to climb Kangchenjunga, the world’s third highest mountain. As if the threat of devastating cold, hurricane force winds, and insufficient oxygen aren’t terrifying enough, the climbers start to see mementos of the last attempt to summit the mountain – and begin to suspect that all is not well on the slopes.

  • The cover of the book Dead Mountain: The Untold True Story of the Dyatlov Pass Incident

    Dead Mountain: The Untold True Story of the Dyatlov Pass Incident

    Okay, this one’s not fiction – but how could we resist? The Dyatlov Pass incident is pure nightmare fuel, and there as many theories about what really happened to the hiking party as there are weirdos on the internet, but Eichar’s book purports to get to the bottom of all of them.