I’m a lifelong gamer. I started as a child on an original Nintendo, upgrading to more advanced consoles and getting hooked on online gaming in Middle School. I’ve been a Zelda fiend, and the songs still haunt my dreams. I’ve played and dominated in , and , MMOs with millions of online players. I’ve joked often with friends that I am far better known by my secret online gaming name than I ever will be for my books… which is only semi-funny because it’s probably true.
I play most games intensely for a few months to a year. I’m competitive by nature, and I like to immerse myself via binges. After that… I don’t tend to return. But has always been different. I bought right when it came out in 2011, and I still play regularly in 2018. There’s always been something about the vastness of the world, the attention to detail and lore by the game-makers, that keeps me entranced year after year.
is a favourite for so many of my bookish friends as well. A game we constantly come back to, that provides a different experience every time.
I’ve come up with a list of great SFF reads, based on different experiences I’ve had while playing . Strap on some Daedric armour, because these books are intense.
Warning: While there are no bookish spoilers in this post–there are some spoilers for sky!
If you killed all three assassination targets after the Dark Brotherhood took you hostage, because better them than you…
The life of a Dark Brotherhood assassin is an adrenaline-filled bloodbath, and not for everyone, but you relish it. And after all, it’s not your fault you got roped into a line of work that’s not exactly legal–Astrid didn’t give you much of a choice. It was either kill or be killed, and you very much like living. Since you joined the Dark Brotherhood and made your home in their sanctuary, you’ve discovered a real knack for murder. Hiding out, waiting to ambush, sneaking through sewers… not much about your profession is glamourous, but hey, you’ve found your talent.
You might enjoy: Not Even Bones by Rebecca Schaeffer
Not Even Bones by Rebecca Schaeffer is a dark contemporary fantasy, starring Nita, a half-human girl who dissects monsters at the behest of her bounty-hunter mother. Nita didn’t really ask for a job chopping up bodies and selling their bits online, but she’s discovered an unlikely passion.
If you rushed to join the Dawnguard, because the undead are coming and someone has to STAB THEM…
The undead are no joke, and you’re completely ready for The Elder Scrolls: Zombie Apocalypse. You’ve been training against skeletons and draugr for months, and can often be found sneaking through caves and tombs. You’re prepared for anything and keep at least 25 Cure Disease potions in your pack at all times–because you never know when a Vampire might bite you. That being said, you have good sense of humor and knack for persuasion. Things are always more nuanced than they seem, even when it comes to the undead. Serana is your follower of choice.
You might enjoy: Dread Nation by Justina Ireland
Dread Nation follows Jane, in training as an attendant and slayer of the undead. Jane is wry sense of humor, but don’t let that fool you. She is a killer when she has to be, and knows everything there is to know about killing zombies. She has a knack for finding out where the action is, and for getting to the bottom of conspiracies. Dread Nation is a compelling and original fantasy, set in an alternative Reconstruction era where the fallen soldiers of the Civil War have risen again. It’s a rollicking read that tackles harder themes like racism and classism.
If you hated trapping sweet animal souls in inanimate gems, and wished there was a better way…
Enchantment magic is so powerful and effective. You journeyed all the way to Winterhold just to perfect the art. As a child in Riverwood, you dreamed of the day when you would wield a flaming sword of your own. But the idea of trapping cute, gentle arctic fox souls in a stone for all eternity? Shudder. It’s a useful but inhumane twist of the game, and you wish you could do without it.
You might enjoy: For A Muse of Fire by Heidi Heilig
Jetta, the star of Heidi Heilig’s new fantasy For a Muse of Fire, has the power to collect lost souls and help them pass on to the next life. Jetta sometimes collects the souls in shadow puppets that retain the personality of their original host. Whether it’s a playful shadow kitten or an elegant bird, Jetta is able to control them all. Afterwards, she sets them free, and the souls can find a new, living host. Jetta’s magic is just as powerful as any enchanter, and a hell of a lot more humane. In addition, For a Muse of Fire is a lush, enrapturing fantasy with word-perfect prose.
If you’ve accidentally killed your horse jumping off a mountain, cried actual tears, then reloaded a previous save even though you have to redo an entire quest line, because he’s irreplaceable in your heart…
The horses of are noble, tough beasts with hearts of gold. Some, like Shadowmere and Arvak, follow their owners even after death. You cherish your horse like a member of your family. Housecarls like Lydia are a dime a dozen–expendable, annoying–but Kynareth save the bandit who tries to attack your horse. You built a house outside of Falkreath just so your horse could have a private stable to call home.
You might enjoy: Of Fire and Stars by Audrey Coulthurst
Whenever anyone asks me to recommend a horsey book, Of Fire and Stars is always the first thing that jumps into my mind! Princess Dennaleia is shipped off to a foreign kingdom to marry a prince and ends up falling for his horse-loving, fierce sister instead, because who wouldn’t? You can tell that Audrey Coulthurst grew up riding, because the horses in Of Fire and Stars have their own distinct and playful personalities. I adore books with prominent animal sidekicks–especially when those animals are ponies–so I devoured Of Fire and Stars.
If you love the legends of the gods, and read all the books you pick up for the added story depth, not just the skill points…
is a living library with books at the heart of the game. Books in are filled with magic, have the ability to transport you physically to whole new worlds, and transfer secret knowledge. As a battling bibliophile, you collect books from across Tamriel and store them in your elaborate home libraries. You hire a steward for every one of your houses–not to protect your adopted children or your weapons stash, but to ensure that no one messes with your bookshelf. Your books are sorted perfectly in alphabetical order, even though it took you two hours.
You might enjoy: Strange the Dreamer by Laini Taylor
Strange the Dreamer is the ultimate fantasy for people who love everything to do with books: the stories, the smells, the feel of a spine. It’s for readers who believe fervently that books have true magic. Strange the Dreamer is the story of Lazlo Strange, orphan librarian who studies ancient texts and believes in the myth of a forgotten city, when no one else will. He’s ridiculed for his love of fairy-tales, but Lazlo doesn’t let other people dampen his love for books. His fortitude earns him a place on the quest of a lifetime.
If you only played through the entire Companions quest-line for the chance to romance Aela the Huntress…
Aela the Huntress. ’s ultimate love interest, at least if you like strong women armed with a bow and not a lot of time for bullshit. Ever since you spotted her slaying a giant outside Whiterun, you’ve been trying to find out more about her. You joined the Companions even though you’re more of a Thieves Guild girl, just for the chance to impress her. The quests are long. You’re sick of sleeping in a tiny bunkbed. And Farkas won’t stop trying to turn you into a werewolf, but it’s all okay, because Aela said ‘hi’ to you this morning. This love-story has the makings of the ultimate gay teen werewolf novel.
You might enjoy: The Seafarer’s Kiss by Julia Ember
I’m channeling my inner Aela here, and brazenly self-recommending. The Seafarer’s Kiss tells the story of mermaid Ersel who falls for a Viking shield-maiden. Like Aela, Ragna has trained to be a fighter almost from birth. She’s focused on her goals and consumed by thoughts of revenge. If you pined for Aela in , Ragna might be a romance interest to steal your heart!
If you conjured your familiar (or your Dremora) over and over again, just to have a companion on your long, lonely journey…
You’re a player with a gentle soul; an adventurer and a scholar, with a love for the creatures that roam the snow-capped mountains of . And whether it’s your familiar growling at your heels, an adopted war troll or your faithful steed, your pet is never far from your side. Once you found the Sanguine Rose, you were never without your demon companion either.
You might enjoy: The Abyss Surrounds Us by Emily Skrutskie
The Abyss Surrounds Us really is a great SFF adventure for animal lovers. Cas trains Reckoners, huge sea-creatures who protect commercial ships as they sail through pirate infested waters. When she’s taken prisoner by a pirate ship, Cas keeps training. She ends up with the loveable, if difficult Bao, a giant sea-turtle like creature with a knack for crushing ships. Like the animal companions of , the creatures in The Abyss Surrounds Us are trained to fight–and they’re good at what they do.