9 Fantasy Books With An Interesting Take on Good vs Evil

The clash of good and evil is present in some of the most famous stories on Earth, from Homer's Odyssey to the Star Wars films. In the simplest of these tales, the villains are irredeemably evil and the heroes are always justified in their cause. But some writers create characters and situations with more nuance and depth. The nine books we've selected for this list all present an interesting take on the concepts of Good and Evil, using intriguing characters who must make difficult decisions under harrowing circumstances. When you click links from this website, we may receive advertising revenue to support our research. This video was made with Ezvid Wikimaker.

9 Fantasy Books With An Interesting Take on Good vs Evil

Title Author More in the Series
1. Wicked Gregory Maguire Son of a Witch A Lion Among Men
2. Trial by Fire Josephine Angelini Firewalker Witch's Pyre
3. On a Pale Horse Piers Anthony Bearing an Hourglass With a Tangled Skein
4. The School for Good and Evil Soman Chainani A World without Princes The Last Ever After
5. The Queen's Poisoner Jeff Wheeler The Thief's Daughter The King's Traitor
6. Poison Sarah Pinborough Charm Beauty
7. The Waking Fire Anthony Ryan The Legion of Flame The Empire of Ashes
8. The Magicians Lev Grossman The Magician King The Magician's Land
9. Nice Dragons Finish Last Rachel Aaron One Good Dragon Deserves Another No Good Dragon Goes Unpunished

Why Does Evil Exist?

In Depth

Fantasy novels have long delved into the battle between good and evil: white knights and brave hobbits against malicious dragons and wicked sorcerers. While it can be fun to escape to a world of black-and-white morality, three-dimensional characters with complicated motivations can make a story more compelling.

These nine novels, listed in no particular order, take a nuanced look at the concepts of good and evil, featuring heroes and villains who aren't quite what they seem to be on the surface. If you like realistic characters in your magical stories, consider adding some of these books to your personal library.

#1: "Wicked." Many are familiar with the Broadway musical based on this novel by Gregory Maguire. But the book offers even more insight into the twisted politics that occur behind the curtain in the land of Oz. This is the story of Elphaba, the Wicked Witch of the West from L. Frank Baum's "The Wonderful Wizard of Oz." While the original version of the character is portrayed as a simple baddie, Maguire's interpretation is a misunderstood outcast who challenges the norms of her society.

Many are familiar with the Broadway musical based on this novel by Gregory Maguire.

#2: "Trial by Fire" by Josephine Angelini. Lily Proctor is suffering from life-threatening allergies in modern day Salem, trying unsuccessfully to live a normal life. One day, she finds herself in an alternate version of her home. Her counterpart in this world is a powerful witch named Lillian. At first, Lillian appears to be Lily's evil twin. But are her intentions really as bad as they seem?

#3: "On a Pale Horse" is the first installment in Piers Anthony's "Incantations of Immortality" series. The protagonist, Zane, kills Death itself and is surprised to learn that he is now required to take over the vacant position. As he rides through the world on his white steed, ushering souls to the afterlife, he has to grapple with tricky issues, including love, morality, and dealing with the devil himself.

#4: "The School for Good and Evil." Author Soman Chainani introduces readers to a fairy tale world full of familiar characters like Cinderella, Rapunzel, and Snow White. Saintly Sophie is eager to attend the School for Good, while villainous Agatha seems like a perfect fit for its evil counterpart. Their expectations are subverted when each girl is sorted into what feels like the "wrong" academy. At first, they assume it is a simple mistake. But maybe it's a clue to discovering something important about their true identities.

At first, they assume it is a simple mistake.

#5: "The Waking Fire" by Anthony Ryan. In this fantastical land, the most valuable resource is the blood of fearsome dragons called drakes. It can be turned into potions that bring out magical powers in an elite group of people known as the Blood-blessed. The story is told through the point of view of three characters. Clay is an explorer who is recruited to help hunt down the mysterious white drake. Lizanne is engaged in high-society espionage, searching for scientific artifacts. Hilemore battles pirates and enemy fleets on the high seas.

The three leads have very different lives, but they are all connected by the larger forces of their world, namely the Ironship Trading Syndicate and the Corvantine Empire. These two entities vie for power and use unscrupulous methods to achieve their goals. However, their squabble is soon overshadowed by a massive threat to all of humankind.

#6: "The Queen's Poisoner" by Jeff Wheeler takes place in a classic high fantasy setting, complete with medieval kingdoms and dark magic. Owen Kiskaddon is being held hostage by King Severn as a means of threatening Owen's father, a traitorous duke. In order to survive in the court, the boy needs to learn the truth about the king. But he can't do it alone. He enlists the help of a mysterious woman, the titular "poisoner."

Owen Kiskaddon is being held hostage by King Severn as a means of threatening Owen's father, a traitorous duke.

While many of the characters in this tale seem like archetypes, Wheeler digs deeper, revealing complicated backstories and intriguing motivations that will make readers think twice about their first impressions.

#7: "Poison," the first book in the "Tales From the Kingdoms" series by Sarah Pinborough. Most of us are familiar with the tale of Snow White. The beautiful princess is poisoned by an evil queen and eventually rescued by a charming prince. But what if the true story is more complicated than that? Perhaps the queen has more to her than we think. Perhaps Snow White isn't the innocent victim she seems to be.

#8: "The Magicians" by Lev Grossman. Quentin Coldwater has always dreamed of being whisked away to the land of witchcraft and wizardry that he's read about in his favorite fantasy series. When he is admitted to a school of magic, it seems like his wildest desires are actually coming true. But the college is filled with dangers and dark secrets. Quentin has to come to terms with his disillusionment as he discovers that his childhood fantasies are quite different in real life. This bestselling book has been adapted into a popular TV show that premiered on Syfy in 2015.

This bestselling book has been adapted into a popular TV show that premiered on Syfy in 2015.

#9: "Nice Dragons Finish Last," the first book in Rachel Aaron's "Heartstrikers" series. Julius is the runt of his dragon clan and keeps his head down in order to survive. But his mother is disgusted by his meek behavior and banishes him to live as a human in a futuristic city built on the ruins of Old Detroit. He has one month to prove himself as a ruthless dragon if he ever wants to return home. In a world of mages and spirits who think he and his kind are irredeemable monsters, Julius will have to form some unlikely friendships in order to succeed.