With the overwhelming success of George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series, the fantasy genre has moved to the fore. There is little better than opening the pages of a book and escaping into a completely different world, far from the worries of everyday life. So here English Literature with Creative Writing graduate Kelly Pells chooses her top five fantasy novels.

1. A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab

Kell is one of the last travellers, a magician who can travel between parallel Londons. There is magic-less grey London, Red London, where Kell belongs, and White London, where whoever killed the previous monarch rules the throne. And once, there was Black London…

I picked this book up earlier this year and it’s one of the best fantasy novels I’ve read in a long time. It’s driven by the cool concept at its heart of parallel Londons and the different lifestyles and types of magic in each. The magic system is interesting and explained well, without too much information dumped on you at once. Schwab welcomes you into this fantasy world with open arms and you can’t help but find yourself swept along. The fantasy elements are never allowed to overwhelm the characters, who are written with such vivid detail that they practically sparkle. The novel is full of humour that belies the darkness at its heart. And it really is quite dark; this is definitely a fantasy novel for adults. I am currently eagerly awaiting the sequel.

2. Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor

Karou lives two lives. On one hand, she is a seventeen-year-old art student in Prague. On the other, she is errand-girl to a monstrous creature called Brimstone who is the closest thing she has to family. She has never understood why she was brought up by him, or what he does with the teeth brought to him by hunters. Now the doors to Elsewhere are closing, and Karou must choose which life she wants to live.

This is the only YA novel on this list, but don’t let that put you off. Taylor writes so beautifully and with such stunning complexity that it becomes so much more than YA. The sentences are constructed with such care that you want to read them over and over to fully soak them up. This is one of the best books I’ve read in a long while. I enjoyed it immensely and plan to go back and re-read it at some point. This is also the first book in a trilogy, so if you enjoy this one you can read the second two instalments, which are also very good.

3. The Quick by Lauren Owen

The story begins in Victorian Yorkshire, where a brother and sister live on a remote country estate. In time they will both travel to London’s Aegolius club, a society of the richest and most powerful men in England, where disturbing secrets will be brought to light.

You might start reading this book thinking that it is going to be an ordinary historical novel. However, the twist that comes early on in the story will utterly destroy your assumptions. I don’t want to give away too much about the plot, but I did really love this book. The Quick is a brilliant throwback to the nineteenth century Gothic genre of terror and excess. It’s an easy read, very enjoyable and entertaining. It was a brilliant reinvention of what could easily have become a cliché. One of the main characters is a little bland, but the fantastic plot and brilliant secondary characters make up for this flaw. A witty, atmospheric and brilliantly written book. I’m still keeping my eyes peeled for signs of a sequel.

4. Assassin’s Apprentice by Robin Hobb

The kingdom of the Six Duchies is on the brink of civil war. Matters worsen when the King-in-Waiting is forced to abdicate after it becomes apparent that he has sired a bastard son, a child named Fitz. Fitz is raised as an assassin to be useful to the crown. But his tutor, who instructs him in the traditional magic of the royal Farseer family, is determined to discredit, even kill him. Fitz must find a way to survive if he is going to help save the kingdom.

This is a fun, enjoyable fantasy adventure read. The characters in this book are fantastically created, three-dimensional beings who are never overwhelmed by the larger events governing the story. You see everything through Fitz’s eyes, revelling in his successes and mourning his losses. Hobb does a great job of interweaving the history of her fantasy land with the plot. Well-written and gripping, this is a great little piece of escapism – followed by two much larger pieces of escapism in the form of sequels.

5. Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman

Richard Mayhew is an ordinary man living an ordinary life. But this is changed forever when he helps a young injured girl who has stumbled across his path. She shows him a world he never dreamed existed, a world below London, where those who have slipped through the cracks live in darkness. Richard’s encounter with the girl turns him into one of them, and he must find a way to survive if he is going to return to the London he knows.

Pick up this book and you’ll find yourself immediately swept away by the fantastic characters and great writing. Richard is a great protagonist, utterly relatable and funny to boot. Gaiman handles each of the secondary characters – monks and assassins, murderers and angels – with impressive skill in a unique and interesting world. It’s the combination of the underworld beneath London and the city above that really makes this book stand out. Written with great wit, the book also contains Gaiman’s trademark darkness. A fantastic, very enjoyable fantasy novel.

Kelly Pells graduated Brunel University with a first in English with Creative Writing. She has had her short stories published by magazines and runs the book review blog scribblerreview.blogspot.co.uk.