These books draw their inspiration from nature: from dark, dense forests that are rich with legends and fairy tales to sandy beaches to gorgeous gardens, these books will remind you of the vibrancy of nature and the value of a lush, fantastical setting.
When the king is murdered, Lady Elanna is stunned. After all, she was devoted to him. But when she’s accused of his murder, Elanna must leave everything behind and return to the land of her birth, a place she never wanted to visit again. Elanna has a connection to and love of the natural world, but the truth is there might be magic in her veins that fosters her connection with plants. She must face the explosive truth about herself and the world she lives in. The book just released in paperback, and the sequel The Memory of Fire comes out in June, so it’s the perfect time to read this thoughtful novel.
The Russian wilderness is an important figure in Katherine Arden’s gorgeous, lush novel. Vasilisa and her family live at the edge of the wild forests in Russia, and Vasilisa enjoys the stories of the guardians of the forest that her nurse tells on cold nights by the fire. These are supposed to be just myths and legends, but when a stranger arrives in town, he changes the balance between humans and nature. Vasya must draw upon inner reserves she didn’t know she had in order to face what’s coming and protect both her people and the woods.
This lush fantasy novel takes place in a rainforest that’s controlled by the gods. Unar is born into the treetop city of Canopy into a poor family, and decides the only way out for her is to serve one of the gods. She gives herself to the goddess of growth and fertility, the Garden of Audblayin, but she must first venture out of Canopy in order to find glory and make a name for herself. The sequel to this novel, Echoes of Understorey, releases in February, so it’s the perfect time to get caught up on Unar’s story.
Sarah Addison Allen
The Waverley family has always been a subject of gossip and curiosity, but it’s their garden that makes them famous. Behind their family home lies a stunning garden that’s rumored to be full of magic. But the family has difficulties that magic may not be able to cure — the Waverley sisters are estranged. Claire works as a caterer and cooks magic dishes, prepared with plants from the garden. She has a neat and tidy life, but it’s upended when her sister, Sydney, returns home to Bascom, North Carolina, with a daughter in tow. Now the sisters must see if the magic from their garden can heal the oldest and deepest of wounds and bring them together once again.
If you haven’t picked up Jeff VanderMeer’s hit trilogy yet, now is the time — the movie based on the first book, Annihilation, starring Natalie Portman, is out in February. The book is set in a future United States in which a secret agency called the Southern Reach monitors an area that has been cut off from the rest of the country. The region, called Area X, has been allowed to grow out of control and is now a pristine wilderness — but it hides something dark and malicious at its heart.
It’s not clear why the wizard, called the Dragon, needs one young woman to serve him for 10 years as his price for protecting the people from the Wood. That’s just how it’s been as long as Agnieska can remember, and despite the fact that it’s a terrible fate for one person, the price is worth it to her people. Agnieska is afraid because she knows her best friend, Kasia, who is beautiful and perfect, will be chosen next, and Agnieska doesn’t know how to protect her. But when the day comes, things don’t go as Agnieska expects, and everything changes in a flash. There’s a reason this book is so widely acclaimed; read it for yourself to find out just how good it is.
Gregory Maguire, who has reinvented the fairy tale fantasy genre, takes readers on a journey inspired by the thick, dark forests of Bavaria to tell the fantastical story that inspired The Nutcracker. Dirk Drosselmeier was adopted as a young boy by a woodcutter and his wife, but sadly he didn’t find love and warmth there. The story follows his life, as it draws from different aspects of the magical formula that came together in so many of the fairy tales we love: a dark, close setting that inspires the fantastical.
This book, which is out at the end of January, features the Hinterland, a mysterious wood that’s been at the center of Alice’s grandmother’s stories for years. The collection of bizarre, dark fairy tales is famous, and a sort of cult has risen around the reclusive figure of Alice’s grandmother. Alice stays away from all of it the best she can – that is, until her mother is kidnapped. The culprit claims to be from the Hinterland. Could there be some truth behind her grandmother’s stories after all? It’s up to Alice to find out.
Karigan G’Ladheon knows she’s about to be expelled from school. And unfortunately, she has a long journey home through the Green Cloak forest to think about just how bad it will be. That is, until she comes across a wounded young man, splayed across the back of a horse, who tells her with his dying breath that he’s a Green Rider, a figure of legend. He has an urgent message for the king of Sacoridia, and no one to entrust it to but Karigan. Karigan must take the man’s Green Rider brooch and risk her life, entering into an unknown world to deliver a message that could spell life or death.
On the island of Fennbirnn, one set of female triplets is born every generation. Only one of the three can be queen; the winner must kill her sisters in order to ascend to the throne. Katherine is a poisoner, able to ingest and handle the deadliest of concoctions, while Mirabelle is an elemental. Arsinoe is a naturalist, with a gift for bringing plants to life and an affinity with animals. These three sisters are locked in the deadliest of battles, but is it possible they can find a way out of their traditions without having to resort to murder? Three Dark Crowns and its sequel One Dark Throne are out now.
Next to the town of Essenwald, there’s a dark, dense, seemingly limitless forest called the Vorrh. It’s a place of magic, where the normal rules of time don’t apply. The forest also has the power to wipe your memory. There’s a legend that the Garden of Eden is at the center of Vorrh, but no one knows because no human has traversed it. One man is determined to be the first, but the people of Essenwald fear the repercussions if he succeeds. The town sends someone to stop him in this fantastical adventure that takes its creatures from all kinds of myths and legends.
Alan Dean Foster
Mid-Flinx is the seventh book in Alan Dean Foster’s space opera series, featuring the characters of Flinx, who can sense emotion, and Pip, his mini-dragon whose telepathy can enhance Flinx’s powers. This installment sees the duo on the run from a wealthy man who wants to kidnap Pip for his own. They end up on a lush forest planet called Midworld which is home to an incredible amount of plants and animals. The problem? Most of of Midworld is deadly, and Pip and Flinx have to figure out how to survive and find a way out of their difficult predicament.
Mary knows that the Unconsecrated come from the Forest of Hands and Teeth, and she knows not to leave the confines of the village. Otherwise, she will become one of them. The forest means death, after all, if not something worse. But when a girl arrives from the forest, a normal girl who isn’t Unconsecrated, Mary begins to question everything she’s been taught about the forest, and wonders whether there might be more people out there in the wider world beyond it.
The Tree at the center of Botanica Island provides shelter and nourishment to the communities that live on the island’s coast. But the tree might not be all good. There are legends of evil beings that live within it who kidnap the young and the infirm. Lilah lives in a community on Botanica, and now that she’s come of age, she must make a pilgrimage around the island that will take five years. But before she leaves, a young woman asks Lilah to take her son on the pilgrimage with her. The woman is dying, and she hopes to spare the boy from the illness that has claimed her life. But Lilah must keep the boy’s secret, at great risk to herself.
Julie C. Dao
Julie Dao’s lush East-Asian inspired fantasy has been receiving acclaim for its gorgeous setting and its twist on the Evil Queen legend from Snow White. Xifeng is beautiful, and she has a destiny about her. In fact, she receives a prophecy when in the forest foretelling her exquisite future. But in order to achieve greatness, Xifeng must make personal sacrifices. How important is living a good life? What will she do in her quest for power and glory? It’s a deliciously dark story, with a main character who is sympathetic, despite the fact that she is, in fact, the Evil Queen.