12 Fantasy Audiobooks For When You Need A Little Bit Of A Break From Real Life
Hey. Look. It's important to stay on top of the news right now. It's vital to be politically engaged. This is no time to stop listening or to mentally check out. But it's also important to close your Twitter tab every once in a while, stop obsessively reading the comments that your conservative aunt leaves on Facebook, and just take a break from social media before your poor brain melts and pours out through your ears due to stress and constant panic. Take a deep breath. Go for a long walk. And plug into some excellent fantasy audiobooks, because nothing will help you to calm down like wizards, queens, and sweeping descriptions of elf armies engaging in dragon-based warfare.
I'm not kidding. I've found, from my supremely un-scientific test group of me and me alone, that listening to a grand, epic fantasy novel is one of the few things that will stop an anxious thought-spiral in its tracks. Being transported to another world (especially if it's a world with lots of fictional history and fictional details to fictionally obsess over) is excellent when you need to escape from anxiety and despair for an hour or two. The real world will always be there when you get back. But for now, take a breath and take a break with these immersive audiobooks:
'The Fifth Season' by N.K. Jemisin, read by Robin Miles
Essun lives an ordinary life in an ordinary town in a dying world. The continent known as the Stillness has begun to tear itself apart, and the great empire of Sanze is collapsing. But Essun is determined to survive. She will fight her way across a ravaged landscape and through battling nations to save her kidnapped daughter, or she will die trying. If you're looking for inventive epic fantasy with a grim and gritty edge, this one's for you.
'His Majesty's Dragon' by Naomi Novik, read by Simon Vance
Let's be honest here, we're all just reading fantasy for the dragons. And His Majesty's Dragon doesn't just have dragons, it has dragons during the Napoleonic Wars. When Captain Will Laurence of the British captures a French dragon egg, he finds himself swept up in the dangerous world of the Aerial Corps with his new steed and best friend, the adorable, ferocious Temeraire.
'Children of Blood and Bone' by Tomi Adeyemi, read by Bahni Turpin
Orïsha used to be rich with magic. But under the order of an all-powerful king, all the magic-users were murdered, including young Zélie's Reaper mother. Now it's up to Zélie to bring magic back and take down the monarchy, once and for all. She has the help of a rogue princess as she goes up against snow leoponaires, water spirits, and the crown prince himself, but Zélie must also contend with her own burgeoning powers and a whole lot of confusing feelings for her sworn enemy.
'The Strange Case of the Alchemist's Daughter' by Theodora Goss, read by Kate Reading
Mary Jekyll has just lost her mother, only to find that she's gained a sort of a sister: the impulsive, wild Diana Hyde. It turns out, their fathers (or father?) were part of a secret organization of "alchemists," the same organization that might be responsible for murdering and experimenting on young women all across Europe. With the help of Beatrice Rappaccini, Catherin Moreau, and Justine Frankenstein, Mary and Diana must solve the mystery of their own creation in this feminist re-mix of classic Victorian monster fiction.
'The City of Brass' by S. A. Chakraborty, read by Soneela Nankani
Nahri has never been much for fantasies or magic. As an accomplished con woman, she knows all about tricks and sleight of hand. But when she accidentally summons a sly and all-too-real djinn warrior, she's forced to question her very reality. Not only that, but Nahri now has a quest: to find Daevabad, the legendary city of brass, where Nahri's true fate lies.
'A Darker Shade of Magic' by V. E. Schwab, read by Steven Crossley
Officially, Kell is an ambassador of Red London, a rare Traveler-magician capable of hopping between parallel worlds. Unofficially, Kell is a smuggler who spirits tourists between Red, White, and Grey London for a price (no one speaks of Black London anymore). But then he meets Delilah, a cut-purse determined to go on a genuine adventure, and Kell's carefully constructed double-life all comes crashing down around him.
'The Grace of Kings' by Ken Liu, read by Michael Kramer
Kuni Garu is quick-thinking, entirely charming bandit. Mata Zyndu is a stern and fearless nobleman, the son of a deposed duke. They have very little in common. When it comes to going up against the emperor, though, the two will have to work together as they battle vast armies and airships and possibly even gods. The Grace of Kings is a sweeping epic centered friendship, justice, and some extremely cool worldbuilding.
'Stardust' written and read by Neil Gaiman
If you're looking for an adult fairy tale that's filled with witches, adventures, and smartly written romance, then Stardust is the story for you. It starts with Tristran Thorn, a love-lorn young man who lives by an ancient wall, and takes us all through the mystical Faerie on Tristran's quest to find a fallen star for his true love (unfortunately for Tristran, though, the star's not feeling too cooperative).
'Sorcerer to the Crown' by Zen Cho, read by Jenny Sterlin
Zacharias Wythe has been named Sorcerer Royal of the Unnatural Philosophers, but not everyone is entirely happy about that. He is a freed slave with no familiar, not at all the sort of magician who usually takes the eminent post. Nonetheless, it's left to Zacharias to figure out why England is running out of magic. And Zacharias is going to have to put his powers to the test if he wants to make it to the border of Fairyland and find the truth.
'Dungeon Born' by Dakota Krout, read by Vikas Adam
Every adventurer has been through a classic dungeon in their day: a network of tunnels full of monsters, traps, and treasures. But... who is making all these dungeons? Where do the monsters come from? How do they survive down there without food or water? Do they just... hang out until a hero comes along to kill them? Dungeon Born has all the answers. It's a delightful, tongue-in-cheek adventure for fans of fantasy tabletop and video games who really want to know the story behind that chattering skeleton they defeated in level 2.
'Sabriel' by Garth Nix, ready by Tim Curry
Sabriel has always been kept away from the Old Kingdom, where Free Magic reigns and the dead just won't stay dead. But now that her father has gone missing, she must take up his mantle and journey into a land of wild spirits and magical felines. Sabriel is a dark fantasy filled with necromancy and fraught father-daughter relationships. And most importantly, Tim Curry narrates this one and Tim Curry is the best.
'Akata Witch' by Nnedi Okorafor, read by Yetide Badaki
Sunny and her family have moved from New York to Aba, Nigeria, and she's feeling a little lost. All she wants to do is play soccer with the other kids, but Sunny's albino skin keeps her out of the sun. When she befriends Orlu and Chichi, though, Sunny discovers that she's no ordinary girl: she's a “free agent" with magical powers and ties to the mysterious society of the Leopard People. And her new coven is about to undergo a trial by fire when they cross paths with the terrifying Black Hat Otokoto.
'A Game of Thrones' by George R.R. Martin, read by Roy Dotrice
Yeah, yeah, call me basic if you want, but if you're looking for a large scale fantasy audio book that's overstuffed with worldbuilding, backstory, and unnecessary characters, A Game of Thrones is your best bet. This book is guaranteed to distract you from the real world because it'll take all of your mental faculties just to remember everyone's name.