Civilization Falls, Fantasy Rises: Post-Apocalyptic Fantasy Books

If you find fantasy narratives a little too far-fetched with elves, fairies, griffins, and wizards, but at the same time, post-apocalyptic stories make you feel uneasy about the future, perhaps a combination of the two can be the right formula. The following post-apocalyptic fantasy books can make for an entertaining read and are neither too terrifying nor strictly imaginary.

The Dark Tower by Stephen King

Roland Deschain is the last Gunslinger alive. His mission is to discover the mythical Dark Tower, believed to be the pillar that holds the universe together. If the mission fails, the already warped time and space in the post-apocalyptic world will sow nothing but further chaos. Roland is not alone in his quest as he is accompanied by a talking dog, a sorcerer, and a psychic boy. The Dark Tower is a tale of friendship and the eternal battle between evil and good, despair and hope.

Dying Earth by Jack Vance

First published 75 years ago, Dying Earth tells the story of the sun undergoing a rapid decline. Planet Earth is suffering the consequences. Only a fraction of the human population remains, and they don’t enjoy living under a dying sun very much at all. A group of brave adventurers embarks on a journey to find an alternative home, where they can settle just before the Earth finally succumbs to the cold. As expected, the journey is full of challenges from pirates, savages, diseases, and beasts of all sorts. The novel promises a rather dark premise but is sprinkled with a healthy dose of clever imagination and humor.

Prince of Thorns by Mark Lawrence

Events in Prince of Thorns are set in post-apocalyptic Europe, where Jorg is the young Prince of Renar. Following a bloody battle, he is betrayed and left for dead. But like any other enjoyable fantasy, Jorg gets back on his feet and sets out on a plan to make those who betrayed him pay for their crimes. Along the way, he encounters a beautiful woman, strange creatures, and deadly enemies.

The Green Priest by Ryan Law

In the hollowed-out refuge called Shelters, there live a group of survivors who find comfort in their simple existence amidst the overgrown and flooded ruins of civilization. Rumors have it that religious leaders known as the Green Priests are in possession of incomprehensible secrets and powers beyond understanding, capable of reshaping the world as they see fit. When a young survivor named Halvar bumps into an ancient artifact, little does he know that it triggers the beginning of the Priests’ awakening. The novel features a good mix of low-fantasy and conventional post-apocalyptic elements to give you a refreshing take on the world’s end narrative.

The Shadow of the Torturer by Gene Wolfe

Events in The Shadow of the Torturer are set in the distant future, long after the world was struck to near oblivion by a nuclear fallout. Lucky survivors made their way to a city protected by a barrier made of magical power. A new society emerged inside the city, albeit a feudal one where the ruling class claims authority for they can wield magic and use the power as a political tool. Our main character here is a boy named Severian, who has been falsely sentenced to die for a crime committed by someone else. When the day of the execution comes, mysterious people from an unknown society come to the rescue. His real journey begins here as he sets out on a quest to discover a lost city and save humanity. Severian has to go through a nightmarish world in his quest and deal with metaphysical challenges before everything comes to a conclusion. He might not even be the person he thinks he is. The novel is the first volume in The Book of the New Sun series.

The Warded Man by Peter V. Brett

Demons have destroyed the world as we know it. The constant degradation of the planet is relentless until someone or something can put a stop to their evil powers. Humans have been fighting against the creatures almost to no avail. Arlen might be the key to defeating the demons. The young boy has discovered the secret to keeping them at bay. He is not an all-powerful hero, but thanks to him, humanity has a real chance to make a victorious comeback and save the world.

We think post-apocalyptic fantasy stories are best when the events are set in the distant future when survivors have already had centuries to rebuild and redevelop. Monsters and mutants do not just simply appear after a catastrophe, for it may take a dozen or more generations until radiation-induced mutations or magical powers come to full force. And if there are aliens who introduced real advanced science to the world, the fantastical elements in the story are likely overshadowed by the sci-fi part anyway.

Other things you might want to know:

Is post-apocalyptic categorized under sci-fi or fantasy?

Post-apocalyptic (along with apocalyptic and dystopian narratives) is technically a subgenre of speculative fiction, categorized under the sci-fi heading. That said, many post-apocalyptic stories use quite an extensive list of elements typically observed in fantasy, such as magic and fanciful creatures. To bridge the connection, the story usually mentions that magic is a form of otherworldly science so sophisticated that it appears like witchcraft to everybody.

What is prepper fiction?

Often referred to as a disaster novel or apocalypse fiction, the idea behind prepper fiction is to have someone or a group of people cautiously in anticipation of a catastrophe. They make all the necessary preparations (hence prepper) to deal with the foreseeable challenges following the doomsday event.

Recommended post-apocalyptic book series:

– The Dark Tower by Stephen King (8 books)

– Silo by Hugh Howey (3 books)

– The Forest of Hands and Teeth by Carrie Ryan (3 books)

– Warm Bodies by Isaac Marion (4 books)

– The Passage by Justin Cronin (3 books)

– The Three Californias Trilogy by Kim Stanley Robinson (3 books)

– The Walking Dead by Robert Kirkman (32 books)

– The Book of the New Sun by Gene Wolfe (4 books)

Check out other articles by month: