Nothing beats a good fantasy story, covered in mystical creatures and adventure, as well as unique characters and plot twists. But then, if you’re into fantasy, you probably know how it works already. You spend hours and days on a good book, just to realize it doesn’t have a proper ending.

Exactly! Such books usually come in series, and these series take a while to complete, maybe even years. Sometimes, you just want a quick, short story that will make your day, the type of story you can finish within a few hours on a Sunday afternoon in your backyard, sipping from a coffee or a cocktail.

What Are The Key Characteristics To Consider When Selecting Short Fantasy Books?

In my opinion, selecting a short fantasy book to read is all about quality over quantity. It's crucial to choose a book with a plot that is tightly woven and engaging despite its brief length. I've found that the best short fantasy books don't dawdle or fill up pages with unnecessary fluff. They get to the heart of the story right away, sucking you into the action from the get-go, and keeping you hooked until the final sentence.

Character development, I believe, is another aspect to look out for. In a short book, the characters need to resonate with the reader almost instantly. I've observed that I am most drawn to books where I feel an immediate connection with the characters, understanding their motivations and empathizing with their struggles. In the limited pages of a short book, the author has to create a balance – sharing enough about the character to get you invested, but not overwhelming you with intricate details that may slow down the narrative.

Finally, and this is purely from my perspective, efficient and evocative world-building is paramount in short fantasy novels. It's about feeling like you're part of the author's imagined world, despite the limited descriptive space. I'm always amazed by authors who can create immersive, vibrant settings with just a few carefully chosen words. They let your imagination fill in the blanks, rather than spelling out every little detail. So, when I choose a short fantasy book, I look for that ability to transport me to another world in a matter of sentences. The magic, for me, lies in that kind of skillful brevity.

With these thoughts in mind, here are some of the best short fantasy books, as well as what to expect in each of them.

What Is My Selection of Short Fantasy Books?

The Stone of Brimisvallir, by K. R. Shepard (2023)

By far, my favorite fantasy novelette! And if you can’t get enough of the action, keep in mind this is the first book in the series, so there’s more to come. It’s a quick read that will satisfy your hunger for fantasy and action, trust me.

Anyway, the story follows the so-called Revenants. They need to go to Hjargaard on a mission. The small village of Brimisvallir is dealing with a mystery, as people keep disappearing, and no one can understand what's going on.

The four heroes need to figure out what’s happening and eventually find the culprit. Each member of the team has a unique perspective, so you’ll see this story from different points of view. But then, the cold land of Hjargaard is not a very welcoming place.

Apart from the mystery they need to solve, there are many more dangers they’ll have to face.

You Make Your Own Luck, by Margery Bayne (2023)

This is one of those short fantasy books that bring in a bit of action, romance, and a cozy overall experience. I think it's great before bedtime if you’re in the mood for it. Anyway, let me take you through the main storyline.

Adelaide comes from a family known by everyone for its bad luck. No matter what family members do, it’s like there’s a curse on them. Well, the truth is there is one. And Myra’s family is responsible for it. To free the curse, Adelaide must follow a tradition and kill Myra.

Instead, she decides to work it off. Myra accepts the idea, thinking that such an approach won’t necessarily break the curse. But this is when things go off the hook a little, and I'll stop here with the spoilers.

Dragon's End, by Helena Guin (2023)

Sacrifice, fantasy, redemption, action, that’s pretty much what you can find in one of the best short fantasy books released in 2023. Wars of all kinds ravage the lands, causing chaos and a serious lack of trust between the inhabitants.

Then, things go even worse when steam powered machinery is mixed with ancient magic. But someone can change all these. She's a dragon huntress, and she's ready to take on the most important quest of her life, only to save the world.

Throw in a few dragons, some extraordinary weapons, and a few secrets that change everything, and you have the perfect plot. This isn't just a fantasy story, but a steampunk one with a lot of character. Get ready for the adventure of a lifetime.

The Library of Fate, by Joe Vasicek (2023)

This is a fantasy novelette with a twist. The story follows a chancellor trying his best to get the crown prince in a web. It’s a story of twisting plots and betrayal. However, the young price has a lot to prove, and he's ready to take on the challenge.

This is a story of sacrifice, following a young prince ready to die for both his family and his kingdom. There’s a new surprise waiting for you round the corner, so with every page you turn, you’ll have a different twist.

Redemption, fantasy, and love, you'll have a bit of everything in this story. Furthermore, there's a bonus story included in the package, a story written with the help of artificial intelligence. Quite a bit of fantasy, right?

Into the Forest, by M. J. Fraser (2023)

Despite its brevity, the narrative manages to pack a punch and offer an exciting twist on the typical vampire narrative. Instead of following the trope of vampires as predators, this novelette flips the script with vampires as the prey, and this is where Fraser's storytelling truly shines.

The protagonist, Victoria, is a compelling character. Her world, set in a dark forest kingdom, is fraught with danger and mystery. When she suddenly becomes the hunted, her journey becomes our own, and I found myself rooting for her survival with each passing page. Fraser's skill in creating suspense is commendable, keeping me on the edge of my seat throughout.

The story felt very familiar to Fraser's The Hunt, with the same type of world and a similar narrative direction, yet Victoria's story felt fresh and unique. As a reader, I appreciated the consistency in world-building across Fraser's works, as it provided a familiar grounding point for this new narrative.

In conclusion, Into the Forest was a great and quick read that subverted expectations and left me eager for more. It's a fantastic short fantasy book that truly proves size doesn't always matter when it comes to impactful storytelling. Victoria's tale of survival is one I won't soon forget.

Short Bits, by Belinda Crawford (2023)

This is the third volume in a stunning series. You don’t need to go through previous releases because this isn’t just a fantasy novelette, but a collection of a few short fantasy books in one. There’s a bit of everything in this book.

Fantasy, opera, different worlds, fun, action, drama, you name it. No matter what you’re after, you’ll find it here. There are five different stories in the series. Some of them are inspired from Chinese fantasy, others will take you to virtual gaming environments. Join a battlefield or perhaps discover someone’s inner demons. 

Furthermore, each story comes with deep insight from the author. You'll discover the plot and what inspired the author to write it, as well as a few behind-the-scenes details.

Final words

I know, it’s hard to find good short fantasy books these days. It feels like everyone’s trying to create the next big trilogy for the big screen. There’s an invasion of overwhelming fantasy books with countless characters and missing details.

However, there are classic gems like The Emperor's Soul by Brandon Sanderson. This novella is set in the world of Elantris, and the narrative revolves around a master forger who must create the soul of the emperor. Or there's The Slow Regard of Silent Things, a side story from Kingkiller Chronicle series. This novella delves into the life of Auri, one of the most enigmatic characters in the series, offering a fascinating, albeit different, kind of adventure.

The above mentioned short fantasy books will give you more than just fantasy. You’ll have a few interesting plots, as well as surprising turns and plenty of action per page, all these in just a few hours, totally worth your time. They remind us that great stories can exist in small packages, providing a perfect fantasy fix for those in need of a quick read.

If you are looking for a little bit longer stories, check out our favorite YA fantasy adventure novels.

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