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Best Feel Good Fantasy Books

Fantasy That Makes You Feel Good

Tired of grim dark stories where the nastiness of humanity is gleefully celebrated; where heroes and villains are often one and the same?

 Want a fantasy where good things are celebrated, a world where heroes are heroic and villains are villainous, a world where the good always wins and the bad is justly punished? This style of fantasy, once ubiquitous, has fallen a bit out of fashion recently. You’re more likely to read about a band of marauding mercenaries celebrated as ‘heroes’ than about an actual hero who’s, well, a hero.  

Well good news for you! If you want to read a different type of fantasy, a fantasy about good guys doing good things, beating bad guys, and saving the day, fantasy books that are decidedly optimistic and upbeat -- tales that bring a smile and grin to your face, not tears by the end of it -- then this is your list. A list compiling the best of the feel good fantasy in the genre.

So if you want to finish a book with a big smile on your face, these are the books for you. Think of these reads as a sort of ‘anti-grimdark’ fantasy.

Comments (8)
Award Nominations:1991 LocusF, 1991 WFA

A collusion between two masters in the genre, Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett. How could both of these authors, together, write anything not brilliant?

Just read this book. Two ancient enemies that are supposed to usher in the apocalypse find they are not much interested in doing so, having developed a fondness for humanity.

Packed with humor, wit, and a love for all things living, Good Omens is not only a positive book, but one of the best fantasy contributions of the decade.

Why it's a feel good fantasy: its a funny, dry, and whimsical take on the classic heaven and hell tropes, stretched to something new by the fertile imagination of Gaiman and Pratchett; but underneath the humor, underneath the wit, Good Omens is the story of humanity, one that points to our follies , details our foibles, and ultimately celebrates our magnificence.

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It's impossible to read anything about the fantasy genre as a whole without The Name of the Wind popping up somewhere in the conversation. One of the most impacting novels released the past decade, this book hit a chord with the public; it's almost universally cherished and is considered a modern classic of fantasy storytelling. The funny thing is that Rothfuss didn't do anything particularly new the concepts and story told in his book have been done a million times over in the genre  but Rothfuss brings a refreshing new take on existing ideas and writes with such verve and passion, you get swept away in the tale of Kvothe, slayer of kings, wizard prodigy, and lover of women.

Read this and you just can't help but feel good about life, love, and the universe in general.

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A heart wrenching story about two fantastical characters, a genie from Arab myth, and a Golem out of Jewish lore, inserted into the modern world  a world where they both don't fit. Both characters are as out of place you would imagine and develop an unlikely friendship.

Why it's feel good: unlikely friends who slowly warm to each other over the novel and develop an unbreakable bond? What's not to love about that? Toss in the cultural references, the beautiful writing, and reworking of old fables into a modern fairy tale and you have something that will bring a smile to your face the whole way through.

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With a Martin-esque plot and Jim Butcher pace, The Axe and the Throne is a definite "must read" for even the pickiest fantasy fans.

In his stunning debut, Ireman has built the type of world so vivid and engrossing that leaving it at the end is agony. In spite of leaning toward grimdark, where authors often enshroud every scene in depressing darkness, there is no lack of cheerful moments or brilliant scenery. Yet the pangs of near-instant nostalgia that come after you put down a book like this have less to do with the inspired setting, and far more to do with those who inhabit it. 

From savage, unremorseful heroes, to deep, introspective villains, the cast of this story is comprised of believable characters capable of unthinkable actions. And it is these characters -- the ones you wish you could share a drink with or end up wanting to kill -- that forge the connection between fantasy and reality. Keethro, Titon, Ethel, Annora. These are names you will never forget, and each belongs to a man or woman as unique as they are memorable. 

No book would be complete without a its fair share of intrigue, however, and there is no lack of it here. Each chapter leaves you wanting more, and Ireman's masterful use of misdirection leads to an abundance of "oh shit" moments. Do not be fooled (or do -- perhaps that's part of the fun) by storylines that may appear trope-ish at first. This is no fairytale. 

Available on Amazon & Audible, Barns & Noble, iTunes, Google, and Kobo.

Comments (2)
Award Nominations:2009 BFS, 2009 WFA

A touching novel that actually has ends on a high note how often is this in a modern fantasy novel?

This is one book that makes you cry inside every time you read it. It's an endearing story about a young orphan, who parents are murdered in a graveyard, are raised by ghosts. Things turn full circle when the murders try and finish the job with the only witness  young Nobody Owens. And with Gaiman as the author, it's not only a compelling tale but beautifully written as well. 

Why it's a feel good fantasy: While this is a darker sometimes bittersweet novel, it's also a novel about good things, about wrongs being righted, about a boy becoming a man, and the knowledge that are indeed good people in this world, even if they are ghosts. One of the most heart tugging novels you'll ever read.

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A light, action-adventure series about two thieves with a dynamic friendship. This hearkens back to the old school, heroes are heroes and villains are villains.

The pair of heroes are irascible and likable, working sort of as a pair of Robin Hood characters. At the start, they end up taking on a simplerobbery job that backfires

Why it's a feel good fantasy: Likable heroes who get mixed up in complicated kingdom politics. This is a classic feel-good, heroes-always-win fantasy series that pushes back hard against the current trend of edgy dark, violent, anti-hero driven fantasy. So if you are tired of all the grim dark and want a happier fantasy (in the more classic vein of David Eddings), this is a good series to pick up. Plus, the author is a seriously likeably guy who's done a lot to help educate the little guy on how to self-publish to success.

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One of the best heroic fantasy tales of our generation. Legend is and was the greatest of Gemmell's work, a strident and often polarizing personality in the fantasy community.

Legend doesn't try to be more than what it is: an emotionally driven tale about a hero who stands for the right things against overwhelming odds  even though it means death. Our hero is by all classic definitions of the word, heroic. You won't get dark antiheroes doing bad things for good reason or villains who fill in as part-time heroes. Heroes are the good guys, larger than life characters, men and women of valor and courage, standing up for the downtrodden and the weak. There are many ideas explored through the tale of Druss's exploits: honor, courage, valor, and love. If you want an uncomplicated view of the world in absolutes, Legend is one of the best sort of reads.

Why it's feel good fantasy: Because sometimes you just want to read about warriors who always do the right thing, who protect (rather than kick) the weak and joyfully sacrifice their own lives to protect. 

And also because reading about yet another selfish prick of a prince doing bad things for good reasons (or maybe just for no reason at all) will have you poke your own eyes out.

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A novel similar to The Name of the Wind in frame and story, it's an uplifting read about a young man's quest to become a hero. The protagonist must navigate friends, treachery and politics while still keeping to his strong code of honor. This book hearkens back to some of the more classic fantasies of the early years (back before grim dark became the normal sort of fantasy). It's also a compelling read, full of action and high adventure. Defiantly one of the more exciting, more action packed, more addictive fantasy books to come out the past couple years.

Why it's  feel good Fantasy: The protagonist never wavers from his strict moral code, and always seems to make the moral choice, even when the choices left are all bad ones. The protagonist never descends into the woe is me whining that other similar characters often fall into and maintains a positive frame of mind. In short, it's a heroic fantasy about a hero in the making who does heroic, good things. Read.

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One of the most heralded original fantasy series, right up there with Lord of the Rings. CS Lewis batters you with Christian metaphor after metaphor, but you can be assured there is a clearly delineated distinction between good and evil with the heroes as children and talking animals and villains, witches. You can be assured that good always triumphs evil and heroes always overcome overwhelming odds.

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Yes, you might argue the sequel trilogy, Lord of the Rings, is also somewhat of a positive series. But not as much as the Hobbit, which celebrates adventure, risk, and a bit of robbery with our favorite bandit Frodo Baggins. When you can read a fantasy book to your children, you know it's a feel good book. This book was written back before the days of antiheroes, back when the fantasy worlds were black and white, and it was cool to just leave everything and go on an adventure

Why it's feel good: because this novel speaks to us all, the part of us that wants to break out of our quotidian and predictable life and go on a grand adventure full of mystery, magic, and excitement.

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A classic that combines a detective novel (protagonist's question to figure out his true identity) and an adventure story. Toss in some nasty sibling rivalries, betrayals, a bit love, the whole multiverse and you have a real winner. This classic hearkens back to the good old days where protagonists could do over-the-top superhero things without apology. 

Corwin, the protagonist, is an entirely likable character. You root for him the whole way and he tends to make the right decision for the right reasons, not the wrong decision for the right reasons. A fun science fantasy that's widely hailed as a classic for good reason. Read this one if you want to see wronged heroes right wrongs.

The entire Amber series is a uneven -- the early books about Corwin are the best, but the later books (which feature his son) are of lesser quality. And the final 5 books in the series are written by another author, licensed by the Zelazny estate to continue the story. And I bet you can imagine how that worked out. So for this recommendation, we are referring to the ORIGINAL Amber books, not the lesser works.

Why it's feel good: a genuinely likable prince who seeks to take back his stolen inheritance, right all wrongs, and set universe back into its proper order. Who doesn't want to see heroes win and villains punished? And the world is just so dammed imaginative, it's easy to forget this is an old classic that was published decades ago. 

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A take on the old Beauty and the Beast story, but reinvented and reinvigorated for the modern audience. It's a story that cleverly subverts old tropes. Not only is it a beautiful story with poignant characters, meanings, and themes, but it shows how lovely the language of the written word can actually be, both metaphorically and literally.

Why it's a feel good fantasy: a modern twist on an old fairy tale with a happy ending and a celebration of the power of words, you'll feel pretty damn good after you finish reading it.

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A collection of short stories that helped launch Robinson's career, way back. There's something charming about taking a motely bunch of aliens, time travelers, and quirky humans with psychic powers, throwing them into a bar somewhere near the edge of space and having them reminisce about the good old days, while drunk. If you can make your way through one of the stories without giggling, you are a better man (or women) than I. Think Cheers meets the Outerlimit with a bit of Douglas Adams thrown in.

Why it's a feel good fantasy: Robinson can be trusted to always deliver his patented ridiculous world packed full of humor and untainted sweetness. There is just something comforting about falling into the cadence of Robinson's books. And also because dammit, who doesn't want to get wasted with a bunch of alien misfits onthe edge of space and time?

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Kan Savasci: a legend, a warrior, a mage… hero and villain. Tears of a Heart marks the tale of a young man, Aeden, who unwittingly shapes the world. It is a coming-of-age tale, that fills the void of waiting for Rothfuss’ next book.

It is a coming-of-age tale, that fills the void of waiting for Rothfuss’ next book. The writing is beautiful, layered, and timely. Chase Blackwood weaves an intricate tale that hints at so much more. This is no simple story, it’s a grand epic that has only begun to show itself. And that may be its greatest challenge. Tears of a Heart, the first book in the series, was beautifully written, and interesting. It shows us an amazing world filled with detail and depth, but for a portion of it, just a touch slow. The writing, such beautiful writing, overshadows this, as does the ending. It’s a difficult world to leave.

Tower of the Arkein, the next book in the series, is where the story truly begins to unfold, and where Chase Blackwood shines as an author. It is fast paced, full of action, adventure, and love. A very strong entry in the fantasy genre, and if the next book is equally as good, expect it to make quite a splash.

You can buy on Amazon now.

Comments (2)
Award Nominations:2003 LocusF

The origin story of one of fantasy's move loved characters, Sam Vimes and arguably the best Pratchett book out of the entire Discworld canon.  There is always an underlying rage to Pratchett's writing, a boiling anger at the injustice of the world (Neil Gaiman himself points this out in an essay). Night Watch is one of those books that seamlessly juxtaposes darkness and humor, using each of these to accentuate the other. This is one of Pratchett's best. And when nearly every novel is at the top, the best is the best indeed.

Why it's a feel good fantasy: Because it's one of his best; and despite the darker humor of this book, there's a sort of gallows comfort you can find between the covers of a Pratchett novel even when you know the world is pretty fucked up, Pratchett elucidates it in such a way you can have a grand old laugh at the absurdity of being human.

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A re-imagining of the good old tales of King Arthur and his ladiesbut form the perspective of his ladies. Bradley takes an age-old myth and injects a lot of new life in it, redefining the boundaries and feminizing the hell out of it. The whole tale is one long reality TV series made more literary.

A modern classic, especially loved by those who love romantic reads. And long, long flowing dresses. And lots of sexual tension.

Why its a feel good fantasy: Because its absorbing, well written, and ultimately empowering chic lit.

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A brother and sister must plumb the mysteries of the universe to get back their missing father. Its strange, weird, and oh so cleverly written. This is a book that ultimately speaks to the struggles we all face and ultimate how to overcome them. Its a classic thats captivated readers for almost 50 years. Part of the appeal is the imperfect female protagonist whos own struggle mirrors those faced by us all.

Why its a feel good fantasy: How can you feel bad when the entire book is about the power of love overcoming evil?

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One of the best faery tale books to grace the shelves (now Kindle shelves), this is a classic that's flown under the radar for the newer generation of fantasy readers. Toss a broken hearted heroine, faery rivalries, and magic powered by rock n roll and you have a real winner.

Why it's a feel good fantasy? Because if reading about someone who hits rock bottom, gets drafted a faery war, kicks ass with rock n roll doesnt cheer you up, nothing ever will. This one is guaranteed to give you those goody feelings when you've had a bad day.

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Another classic tale, but one that's so overwhelmingly fun to read it's a pure pleasure from start to finish. It's the story about a relentless quest for true love and even in the face of overwhelming adversity the old adage holds true true love conquers all. Why it's a feel good fantasy: besides being about as perfect a modern child's fairy tale as possible, the strong positive themes and assertion that true love always finds a way make this a positive read the whole way through. It's often a tongue-in-cheek read, full of silliness and clever writing, but it will have you smiling the whole way through. And it features some of the most indelible fantasy characters to grace the pages of literature.

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Unlike some of the reads on this list, this is a tale in the more traditional fantasy mold, but one that's completely character driven. It's about warrior who was sent to prison, tortured, and released at the end of a war, only to be sent back home and forced to pick up the threads of his life.

Though the story is somewhat dark, the tale is ultimately uplifting and about the redemption of a man who's broken in body and spirit. The characters are all complex, outstanding in many ways  especially the protagonist  and the ending is a happy one. Toss in a complex world that's borrows influenced by a 15th century Spain (minus the inquisition and theological dogma present), an exciting plot involving gods, kings, and demons, and you have a real winner here.

Why it's a feel good fantasy: Because there's always a light of redemption at the end of the tale or there will be if you read this book. It won Lois a number of awards  and deservedly so.

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Think princess bride in tone and style, but set in a mythical China that never ever was, replace all the swordplay, violence, and romantic and with con jobs.  This is one of the most underrated books in the genre. It needs to. NO it deserves to be read. And it's so damn funny you won't stop laughing the whole way though. All three books are a wonderful read and the biggest flaw with the series is the author never wrote any more books about Master Li and his sidekick. 

Why it's a feel good fantasy: two wisecracking characters meandering through a mythical china, plotting con jobs that always seem to backfire? If you've the urge for nonstop laughs, this would be the first pick on the shelf.

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The fantasy series that helped make fantasy especially urban fantasy mainstream. Not much needs to be said about this series. It made the author rich, very rich indeed. The series start off with the tale of a young, unwanted boy, Harry, as he becomes involved in a magical world, learning to find his place in the world and maybe just save it too. There's something in this series for every kid the struggle to find your identity, fitting in, bullying, and ultimately overcoming adversity.

Why it's a feel good fantasy: Harry always wins the day and the whole underrated but secretly-wildly talented boy goes to magic school and kicks ass trope is one we just can't seem to get enough of.

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Pure fantasy whimsy, but oh so fucking funny. A great read if you are in the mood for a bit of light-hearted, foolish fantasy that will have you laughing all the way through. And hey, it's actually a pretty interesting story to boot.

The Myth Series have many books. But it all starts with Another Fine Myth -- the origin story of the hapless Skeeve, one-time apprentice of a famous magician, who after his master is murdered, sets out on a life and death quest to avenge his master. Except, he's a klutz with minuscule magical abilities. Misadventures follow the whole way through.

Why it's a feel good fantasy: if you are in the mood for pure ridiculousness, you'll find it in the story of the Hapless Skeeve as he (mis)plots revenge on his master's murder.

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An entirely under-the-radar series that's steeped in Welsh mythology, oft compared to the likes of the Narnia series and Tolkien's Rings. This one will make you want to be a kid again just for the excuse to read it as a kid! It's the perfect book to read to your kids and there's quite a lot to take out of the story as an adult too.

By those who have read it (a disturbingly decreasing number in this day and age of readers who drink from the well of Sanderson and Martin), it's hailed not only a classic, but a timeless classic, in that space, almost but not quite touching, Lord of the Rings and the Chronicles of Narnia. Like all coming-of-age stories, there's some real life lessons adolescents can draw out from these books.

Why it's a feel good fantasy: teachable, didactic fantasy that's a coming-of-age story about a boy who longs to be a hero, but along the way finds out the hero business is not all it's cracked up to be. Packed to the brim with charm and filled with an indelible cast of characters, The Chronicles of Prydain is pure sweet nostalgia  hearkening back to a lost place a long time ago and in a galaxy far, far, away, when Fantasy was once filled with happy heroes, melancholy giants -- and of course, prophetic pigs.

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In the tradition of Ursula Le Guin, comes this wonderful novel about growing up. 15-year old Morwenna struggles to find her place in the world and navigate through adolescent challenges; she deals with life, love, magic, and a psychopathic mother trying to kill her.Theres also a number of SF references in the book to other SF authors, which is kind of cute and nostalgic at the same time, if you grew up reading those same books when you were younger.This is a touching read, at times a bit dark, but as a whole a very uplifting novel. It's a story about trying to and ultimately finding your place. Jo Walton is a highly talented writer and this story won him a number of accolades. Why it's a feel good fantasy:A poignant and intensely personal fantasy story; it will stroke your emotions the whole way through. Morwenna is that adolescent girl who many can identify with  a girl faced with coming-of-age angsts, navigating the social waters with her peers while dealing with a hostile mother. Its fantasy, yes, but it's relatable fantasy for many  one about dealing with hardship and overcoming it.

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Piers Anthony doesn't hold back on the puns in his comedic series. The first in the series The Color of her Panties is the best. It's quite clever and behind all the whimsy and the puns, has a good coming-of-age stories about a misunderstood, underdog hero  a hero who in a land where everyone has a magical ability, has no magic.

There's a puerile humor the whole way through the book that's entertaining. The series goes very much downhill though after a handful of books (and there are rumors the author is a rancid pervert).

However, the first book, it's still a good read and provide some pretty good laughs. The literal use of puns as characters in the story is clever and unique to fantasy. I'd hazard a guess and say that many women may find this book and the series in general, offensive. It's definitelya male-orientated story.

Why it's a feel good fantasy: how can you not laugh at puns made into characters? And the puerile humor brings a lot of first anyways. 

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The land of Lyonesse is very much Vance's version of a Lord of the Rings mythology, yet distinct and with much of it derived from Old English/Welsh myths.

The truth about Jack Vance is that his worst prose is better than many of the best writers in the genre today. And the Lyonesse trilogy is one of his best books.

Yet he's almost unknown to modern fantasy readers. And his best books, the Lyonesse trilogy most modern fantasy readers will never have read.

This is a stunning work of literature Vance can write in one paragraph with such powerful description and imagery what modern fantasy writers take a chapter to do.

This is upbeat classic fantasy fiction: stories about heroic princes who save and princesses who need saving, about evil magicians and noble knights, of scheming Faeries and treacherous cousins. In short, a classic epic soaked in English myth and brought vividly to life through Jack's masterful narration. Lyonesse is an enchanting read. Don't let it pass you by.

Why it's a feel good fantasy: Because it's one of those fantasy works where  the mountains are larger and the forests greener, where just around the corner sits a magical meadow haunted by ancient fairies; a place that's far brighter and more vivid than our own, a world where anything is possible, where the strange and fey might live beneath bridges or in the shadow beneath the fens. It's a fairytale world that will pick you up and steal your breath away. 

That is why, my friends, you should read it.

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A twist on Alice in Wonderland made fresh again for a modern audience, The Girl who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making, with such a wordy title shouts out to the world that yes, this novel is as unique as the name it holds. And delightfully unique it is.

It's one of those novels that explores (or rather re-explores) that tricky space of childhood. It's a book for kids but it's also a book for adults.

However, this is not some subversion of the Alice in Wonderland tale  no dark undercurrent here, no warping of classic fairytale tropes to yield a nightmarish world of only blacks and grays. No, this is an entirely more upbeat sort of place, a world full of lovable heroes, wicked villains, silly characters, and grand adventures. It's a world where there is an ending and a happy one.

Why it's a feel good fantasy: Because who, as a kid, didn't want to pack up and run away to a magical kingdom to have the adventure of a lifetime. The world is entirely upbeat, with heroes you love, villains you hate, and a place where the hero will always win  and have a lot of fun along the way. A fantastic book to read to your kids, but one not limited to children; it's as story that speak to all ages for all ages.

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