The 11 Best Absurd Fantasy Recommendations
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Absurd fantasy books are all chaos, pixie dust and fantasy. You get books with every monster, creature, and cryptid. Everything that appears under the lunar cycle and those that wander around during the day to boot. Absurd fantasy books answer the question “but why” with “yes”. I hope you’re up for some puzzling or entertaining fantasy stories, because if not, you’re definitely in the wrong business.
The name of the “absurd fantasy” category comes from @darbyisecapingthe video on absurd fantasy book recommendations. Between you and me, @darbyisecaping has great content if you’re a fan of sci-fi and fantasy-focused booktokers. She describes absurd fantasies as books with loose magical systems that are a mix of science fiction, fantasy, and other genres.
Absurdity and fantasy have often gone hand in hand. Absurd or fantastic things support the genre. The book of nonsense by Edward Lear first published in 1846 is a collection of surreal poems that have entertained many generations of children. The book is an excellent example of literary nonsense which mixes folk tales and intellectual absurdity. What you get is a bunch of logical statements immediately contradicted by a contradiction. So what does this mean when it applies to fantasy novels? The fantasy world must not have an identifiable logic, or as @darbyisecaping says it, whatever happens, happens because the magic says so.
When compiling my list, I tried to follow all three criteria: a loose magic system, a mix of genres, and it happens because magic. I came up with a list of books divided into adult absurd fantasy, adult absurd fantasy romance, and YA absurd fantasy.
Absurd fantasy for adults
The city we have become by NK Jemisin
Content warnings: racism, sexism, homophobia
Stories can make a city. The human manifestation of cities is born from the stories we tell about them, and incarnations of New York and the boroughs are beginning to take shape and find themselves. But something wants to prevent that from happening. Although they have someone to guide them through the process, it will be difficult for them to learn everything they can do with their new abilities before something much older and more experienced kills them, them and their city. A blend of sci-fi and fantasy elements create characters with borough-specific powers in an absurd and thrilling fantasy book for anyone who loves their metropolis.
Constance Verity’s Last Adventure By A. Lee Martinez
Constance Danger Verity, 20 years late, just wants a normal office job, but the energy she’s chosen keeps getting in her way. Seriously, how does a girl supposed to do an interview with doomsday cults get in her way? She wants out of the game that saves the world from an indescribable magic spell. Now, Constance must have one last adventure with her usual accountant best friend, Tia, if she is to get rid of her chosen unit once and for all. There are no rules in the magic system other than “she’s the chosen one”, so the book fits in perfectly.
A Master of the Djinn by P. Djèlí Clark
Content warnings: racism, sexism, homophobia, slavery
It was Cairo in 1912 and the power of the jinn gave Egypt the ability to resist European colonial rule. Fatma el-Sha’arawi works as a supernatural crime investigator, and everyone knows she’s good at her job, that said, teaching her rookie partner would be hard enough without another murder on her record. Especially one that could well destabilize international politics. With the help of her colleagues and hopefully her girlfriend, she can solve the mystery before the world is destroyed. Still.
Content warnings: transphobia, transmisogyny, police brutality, self-harm
An Asian trans girl joins a group of female vigilantes who protect the Street of Miracles from transphobes, violent patrons and cops at all costs. She’s a pathological liar, an expert in kung fu, and an escape artist, and she’s willing to use all of her skills to help her new home and the family she finds there. This fictional memoir proves that fairy tales can also belong to sex workers, trans communities and gay families. The mix of genres makes this an ideal absurdist fantasy book recommendation.
Adult Fantasy Romance
forgotten monster by J. Emery
When a noble heir goes missing, it’s up to his bookish younger brother, his guard, and the immortal criminal he hires to find him. Taisce can run the estate on his own, but he must find the heir before anyone notices he’s gone. Sef’s magical immortality was a series of bad choices that recently led to him escaping the city’s executioner. He’s willing to use a young nobleman and his guard who are looking for a guide to get out of town quickly. But what Taisce doesn’t know might just kill him. If you’re looking for an absurd fantasy book with slow-burn romance, immortality, myth, and monsters, you’ve found your book.
This time I got drunk and saved a demon by Kimberly Lemming
Content Warning: Slavery
If you’re anything like Cinnamon, you’ll feel like you got drunk at a festival and accidentally saved a hot demon on your way home. Cinnamon is just an average spice cultivator with some practical skills and a good moral sense. She avoided dyeing her hair pink or showing off too much to avoid becoming one of the chosen adventurers of the goddesses. It worked until she meets Fallon who decides she must accompany him on his quest to kill an evil witch who enslaves demons like him. This absurd fantasy book has all sorts of magic and an adorable romantic plot.
The crushed heart by TJ Klune
Sam Haversford knows better than anyone that magic can be wild, unwieldy and chaotic. Training with the current king’s wizard has taught him to try to make deliberate and safe choices, but his best friends Tiggy the half-giant and Gus the hornless unicorn aren’t much help. Then a dragon captures the emotionally cold prince who happens to be engaged to the longtime crush of Sam, the Knight Commander. Now Sam, Tiggy, Gus and the Knight Commander must go and retrieve the prince to save their kingdom. The whole series is very “it happens because the magic says so” with its very emotional system of magic.
YA Nonsense Fantasy
So it’s forever by FT Lukens
When the Chosen One and his party of adventurers defeated the evil ruler, he did not realize that he would also have to ascend the throne. Now he must marry before his 18th birthday or disappear from existence. Arek would rather woo his best friend and mage, Matt, but to avoid locking him into a marriage, he tries to woo the other members of their party instead. It will take quite a few failed encounters with cuties before King Arek realizes that maybe the same person he loves might just love him back. This absurd fantasy book is a magical queernorm bachelor season with potentially deadly stakes, and I can’t recommend it highly enough.
Every heart a door by Seanan McGuire
Nancy knows how to stand still, but when the Halls of the Dead brought her home, her normal parents didn’t know how to deal with her. Fortunately, Eleanor West’s Home for Wayward Children helps young people with quirks of their other worlds and the logic or absurdity and wickedness or virtue by which they operate. But when these miracle children start appearing dead, Nancy knows she’ll have to solve the mystery of the locked room if she’s going to survive long enough to return to death row. Honestly, most of McGuire’s novels are fantasy in nature, so if this choice isn’t for you, I recommend his list as well.
The escape by Naz Kutub
Content warning: homophobia, abusive parent
When a girl bumps into the front door of your cafe and you give her a helping hand, you don’t expect to be rewarded with three wishes. Thinking nothing of the chaotic encounter, 17-year-old Sy asks for a million dollars, and it comes true. His boyfriend left him to travel the world, his best friend is beyond annoyed by his self-centered attitude, and his father kicks him out when he’s unmasked. Now this Indo-Muslim teenager is going to take her million dollars and follow her ex-boyfriend in hopes of getting a second chance at happily ever after.
Young lady by Maxine Kaplan
Content warning: self-harm
A tavern girl travels across the kingdom with the goal of asking the queen to regain control of her tavern. Tanya has worked as a girl in her adoptive pseudo-guardian’s tavern since she was a child, and she is excellent at her job. Thus, she was unprepared when a group of Queen’s Guards entered her tavern after the death of her guardian and took over her only home and work. The only way to get it back is to go to the capital and ask the queen. She will travel with any group of guards, work for any faction of outlaws, and acquire any magic item needed to get her there. Tanya is a bisexual protagonist who is so good at organizing it becomes magical.