Top Five Standalone SFF Books

The world of sci-fi/fantasy reading is chock full of trilogies, quartets, and series spanning a dozen books or more. It can be great to spend hundreds of pages with a set of characters, getting to know them like old friends, seeing a conflict change and evolve over time. But sometimes, you don’t want to commit to reading ten books to get a full story. You don’t want to read book one and realize you have to wait two years for book two. You want to sit down, have a good time for a few hours, and move on with your life. So today I’m shouting out my favorite standalone books of the last few years!

If any of these strike your fancy, I’m linking the covers to Goodreads. Enjoy!

 Sorcery of Thorns  Race the Sands  The House in the Cerulean Sea

SORCERY OF THORNS by Margaret Rogerson
SORCERY OF THORNS is a book that couldn’t have been more made for me if it tried. Warrior librarian: check. Brooding sorcerer with a dark past: check. Adventure and romance in equal measure: check. Books that are conscious objects who just want to be petted: check. Splash a very light Beauty and the Beast motif on top and you have one of my FAVORITE reads in recent memory. Complete with an ending that was so perfect that I burst into tears of happiness. In public. In a restaurant. I don’t know what else I can say to recommend this to you so CHECK IT OUT.

RACE THE SANDS by Sarah Beth Durst
This was a surprise hit with me, and I definitely want to go read more of the author’s work! RACE THE SANDS takes place in a world where people reincarnate into animals based on the goodness and badness of their life. The worst of the worst come back as kehoks, terrible monsters that are an amalgamation of different animal parts. Every year, the brave and foolhardy enter the kehok races, riding the monsters to hopeful fame and glory. Two women desperate to escape their respective circumstances (one a trainer, one a rider) team up in the hopes of earning enough prize money to change their lives forever. And while that’s the story that’s promised on the jacket (and one that is fully delivered on), the synopsis doesn’t tell you there’s a whole other storyline of intrigue at the palace, a storyline that ends up being fully entangled in the races and the successes of our two heroines. Great character and heart, and if you like the genre of “bond with the unrideable monster and make it your ally for life” you’ll definitely want to read this one.

In the year of 2020, this was the feel-good book everyone wouldn’t stop talking about, and when I finally read it, I can see why! THE HOUSE IN THE CERULEAN SEA is about a case worker for the Department in Charge of Magical Youths who is sent to investigate if a particular orphanage has children who are too dangerous for this world. It stars a character who is dedicated to being objective and to not getting emotionally involved in the lives of those he’s investigating. Spoiler Alert: he fails miserably. Come for the were-pomeranian, stay for the slowly blossoming romance between two quiet, lovely souls.

In the Vanishers' Palace  Empire of Sand

IN THE VANISHERS’ PALACE by Aliette de Bodard
A second book inspired by Beauty and the Beast, this time with a Vietnamese-inspired twist! A young woman agrees to be her village’s sacrifice and goes to live with a dragon (who can take human form) and her children in a distant palace. In a remarkably short amount of time, the author paints a dark but beautiful portrait of the dragon’s mysterious home, and (surprise) the two eventually develop feelings for her. Absolutely worth reading for the prose alone, it is truly amazing the tone authors can get across in a handful of sentences.

EMPIRE OF SAND by Tasha Suri
TECHNICALLY, this is part of a duology, but from what I’ve heard, the second book is only loosely connected to book one, so I’m counting this as a standalone. This is a gorgeous book where the author makes you feel the emotional power of dance and ritual, even if I’ve never seen the movements described in person. It’s also one of those great books where the protagonist wins not by being some crazy kick-ass warrior, but simply by being a person who refuses to step aside and let evil have their way. The simple act of standing up to what is wrong is a power in and of itself.

16 thoughts on “Top Five Standalone SFF Books

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  1. I JUST started drafting a post about fantasy standalones last night! 😂 But I approve of your list immensely. Sarah Beth Durst has such a long history of incredible standalones – her book Conjured is still one of my all-time faves!

    Also, you should definitely check out Empire of Sand’s sequel. Both books DO stand alone very well, but the second book is equally excellent!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I really liled Race of the Sands! And I really need to read The House of the Cerulean Sea and Empire of Sands, so I’m glad to see them on here!


    Liked by 1 person

  3. I love this! Thanks for listing these. I very much appreciate standalones. Race the Sands is one I’d like to read this year. And I’ve read a number of Aliette de Bodard’s Xuya stories and absolutely loved them, so I’m up for trying anything she writes.


  4. So true that there are way too many series out there and stand-alone novels are rarer, especially the good ones! I just know that you made The House in the Cerulean Sea sound soooo good with your review and that’s one I’d be very curious to try out myself! 😉 Thanks for sharing!

    Liked by 1 person

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