Catherine Thoms

Catherine Thoms

7 Fantasy Books With Briarverse Vibes

After The Monarch Papers was published in 2018, our readers put their heads together to come up with a reading list of some books that were similar in theme to tide them over until The Book of Briars—think magic, books, secret societies, and all things wondrous.

Now, with The Book of Briars slowly unraveling amid global chaos, most of us are finding ourselves in need of all the magic we can get (and with a lot of extra time on our hands). So! We borrowed some suggestions from the old thread, and added a few more recently published titles for a hand-curated selection of books with Briarverse vibes to get you through quarantine and beyond:

1. For everyone who adored The Night Circus:

Erin Morgenstern, The Starless Sea

Secret libraries, doors to a magical underworld, pieces of lore literally interspersed between chapters, and not to mention, a delightfully smoldering slow-burn queer romance. Not only was this one of my favorite books I’ve read this year, but Morgenstern’s first book, The Night Circus, is also a Mountaineer favorite.

2. For the historical mystery lovers:

Carlos Ruiz Zafón, The Shadow of the Wind

The first pages brought tears to the eyes of our very own @CJB, for how beautifully Zafón describes getting the mark our favorite books leave on our hearts. Set in Barcelona in the aftermath of WWII, this book follows an antiquarian book dealer’s son as he attempts to unravel a literary conspiracy working to erase the existence of a beloved author, whose work he discovered as a child in a secret place called the Cemetery of Forgotten Books. Tinfoil hats not required, but always encouraged. 

3. For the secret society obsessed: 

Leigh Bardugo, Ninth House

We already have a bunch of Bardugo fans over on the AG Forum anxiously awaiting any news of the Grishaverse Netflix adaptation, but while the college town setting of Ninth House may be relatively normal compared to her other books, the intrigue of Yale’s magical secret society scene is far from mundane. Note that this is an adult book and is much darker than Bardugo’s YA books, both in terms of spookiness and maturity (TW/CWs for drug use, torture, sexual assault), but if you’re up for it, you won’t be able to put it down.

4. For when you just need a quasi-magical feel-good:

Robin Sloan, Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore 

The mysteries of an enigmatic bookstore are no match for the Internet, or so it seems to the 24-Hour Bookstore’s newest employee, a former web designer. This is a quick read with fun, quirky characters, a sweet romance, and just enough intrigue to keep you guessing. Recommended as a good palate cleanser between some of the longer suggestions here! 

5. For the grown-ups still waiting for their Hogwarts letters:

Lev Grossman, The Magicians

This series is another hit with our readers, and not just because of its Syfy TV adaptation. It’s everything you love about college plus magic, with the bonus of learning upon graduation that your favorite fantasy series was real all along. Often described as the grown-up Harry Potter, it’s also the first of a trilogy, so there’s plenty more to read when you inevitably get sucked in. 

6. For when you don’t mind being in it for the long haul:

Susanna Clarke, Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell 

This book is a BRICK at over a thousand pages, but it also comes recommended by our Mountaineers! It follows two rival magicians attempting to reclaim the lost powers of traditional English magicians, one through the meticulous collection of a magical library of forgotten books, and the other through meddling in political and military affairs and pursuing dangerous figures from folklore. Bonus: a hard copy of this book can also stand in as a hand weight for any at-home exercises! 

7. For those who have a thing for rabbit holes: 

Alix E. Harrow, The Ten Thousand Doors of January

What can I say? We’ve got a thing for doors here at AGP, especially when they a) lead to other worlds, b) exist in gorgeous, sprawling mansions, and c) are found with the help of mysterious books. This magically literary coming-of-age-story is actually up next on my personal TBR, because I’m in the mood to get completely lost in another world and I just know this will do the trick.

Looking for a way to read? You can check out this list on Bookshop, where each order placed supports local bookstores! The app Libby also connects you to your local library to check out audio and e-books for free. Availability depends on your location, but it’s a great alternative to Amazon or Audible. 

(Ackerly Green may receive a commission from sales placed through our Bookshop store.)