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Indie SFF Recommendations from The Literary Apothecary

Hello! My name is Kate, and I’m from the Booktube channel The Literary Apothecary, where I talk all about the books that I’ve read. Today, I’m here to talk to you all about some of my favorite Indie and Self Pub SFF writers! I’m going to break them down into different sub-genres, so feel free to jump around to your favorites to discover some new amazing writers!


 

Dark Fantasy


I first encountered Matar’s Tainted Dominion series when I read Legacy of the Brightwash— Book 1 in her series—last November. It felt like late fall was the perfect time to read this dark fantasy, gaslight book. This is a gritty fantasy set in a world controlled by The Authority, who have power over those with magic (the "tainted"). It has morally gray characters, found family (all over the place!), amazing characters and relationships, a fantastic parental system that just melts your heart. If any of that sounds good to you, this multiple POV, steampunk fantasy will be perfect for your next read! Just be ready with a box of tissues, you’ll need them! I can’t wait to read Book 2, Legacy of Brick and Bone, next month!

 

Grimdark


I first met John Palladino with Book 1 in his Tragedy of Cedain series:The Trials of Ashmount. This is the definition of a grimdark book. It is the darkest, grimiest book but it is soo good. When I was reading Book 1, I knew that I was going to need Book 2 right away. Lucky for me, Buzzard’s Bowl was ready for ARC readers just about the time I finished Book 1, so I was able to go right into it. I wasn’t a big fan of grimdark before I read this and my experience was limited. But after reading Trials of Ashmount, I became not only a Palladino fan but also a grimdark fan. I loved the characters, the storylines, the prose and the writing, the settings. I could visually imagine all the places in The Trials of Ashmount so well, I didn't need any illustrations to aid me. Palladino's words were chosen with care so that readers never needed to struggle to form images in their head while reading. It was just so well done. The stories came together when they needed to. If you are a fan of George RR Martin and Joe Abercrombie, this is a book for you! Palladino writes with the style of A Song of Ice and Fire series with the humor and wit of Joe Abercrombie. He compliments both writers so well in his writing that yes, it's reminiscent of both but not copying—it's a salute to those that came before and inspired Palladino.


Horror


I am a big chicken when it comes to the scary stuff, but I could not get enough of Daniel Barnett’s Nightmareland Chronicles. This is a 7-book horror series (with 7 more books to come!). If this sounds intimidating to you, don’t worry, most of the 7 books are less than 200–300 pages, novella-length really, and you’ll be sucked in from page 1 and not want to stop reading. I was instantly pulled in by the first paragraph of the first book, Nightfall.

"Tomorrow died on the last morning of May. There were those who saw it happen, who watched the shadow fall, who felt the chop of the guillotine as the world lost its head. Everyone else witnessed only the aftermath, for the event itself lasted no longer than a moment. They stepped outside from windowless rooms, they climbed up from crowded subways, they pulled back the blinds to let in the sun, and found the nightmare waiting for them."

I mean the image that that scene creates in my head …. Goosebumps! I binged all 7 of these books, and I don’t often binge series. But I haven’t looked back since page 1 of Book 1. Barnett has a way with words that creates relatable characters that will just pull on all your heartstrings. He sets the setting and atmosphere so well that you are there experiencing this world ending experience with them. And his writing is pure poetry. If you are looking for a horror series that you can sink into a darkened world and feel all the emotions and yet hope at the end, Nightmareland Chronicles is the way to go.

 

Military Fantasy


I’ve read 3 books in Michael Roberti’s Crown and Tide series so far, and let me tell you— each one gets better and better! This is one of those cases where the prequel novella was released after Book 1 in the series. When you come to the series depends on what order you read the books in. For me personally, I hadn’t read Book 1 yet and Roberti was interested in how the prequel would fall if I read that before Book 1, as all of his readers had read Book 1 first. So I was the guinea pig for reading in chronological order instead of publication order. And I am SO glad that I did! For me, reading the prequel first was the right decision because it set the scene. It let me get close to all our main characters before the heart of the story took off in Book 1: The Traitors We Are. As a reader that likes to attach themselves to the characters while I’m reading and feel their emotions, the prequel novella helped in that sense. If you are like me, then you’ll want to start with The Revenge of Thousands. Roberti's writing style was extremely easy to read: engaging and always moving. The relationships—both good and bad—were done really well. Roberti's best work was with relationships, in my opinion.

 

Supernatural Coming-of-Age


Phased by Victoria Tecken is a YA urban fantasy, supernatural coming-of-age story that will have you glued to the page and on the edge of your seat after every page. The characters felt so real and gritty and believable. There were times that I had to remind myself that these are fictional characters and some of them even werewolves. Even the "villains" were believable and terrifying in their own rights. I did not want to stop reading this book, which is a huge testament to Tecken's writing. Phased will now be Book 1 in a duology, and I will for sure be making room in my TBR when Book 2 comes out!

 

Superhero Science Fiction


I fell in love with Delaney Andrews' Silhouette series after reading Book 1: Silhouette and the Shadow, and I can’t wait to read Book 2: Silhouette and the Monster. A mysterious relative. Secret superpowers. A city that needs saving. And 21-year-old Mel is just the person for the job! This was such a fun superhero book with real themes and emotions. The relationships stole the show. No matter which relationship you are talking about, they were all great and shined on the page. If you want something that is lighter with a Batman type of undertone to it and real emotions and themes, you’ll definitely want to check out the Silhouette series by Delaney Andrews.

 

Wistful Ascending is part one in the Hybrid Helix series—a superhero space opera for grownups. This book has witty, hilarious characters you can’t help but feel for. If you’re a fan of first contact stories, then I believe you would have a great time with this one. Plus, there’s space bears! Yes, you read that right, SPACE BEARS! Space battles! Superheroes in space, y’all! Rohan, our main character, has humor that will make you laugh for days. And don’t forget Wistful - the sentient space station that serves almost as Rohan’s sidekick. I am reading Book 2: Return of the Griffin right now, and it’s just as funny, if not funnier than Book 1. If you want a book that will make you laugh so hard you can’t breath, you’ll want to pick up the Hybrid Helix series.

 

Historical Fantasy


I first discovered Joseph John Lee’s writing when I read The Bleeding Stone, Book 1 in the Spellbinders and Gunslingers trilogy, a historical Indigenous fantasy tale of Sen—the middle child and outcast in her family. It's a tale of those who were conquered in America, but also a tale of how they fought. They say that history is written by the victors, but what if that "history" isn't 100% accurate? This tale looks into "what really happened." Lee writes believable characters that are full of life and tug at your heart strings, who feel like real people pulled from history.

 

No Heart for a Thief is Book 1 in the Malitu series and a dual-timeline dark fantasy novel. I was sucked into the storytelling aspect of this novel and didn't want to leave. The magic and belief system were engaging, and I wanted more and more of it as I read further in. It's a story of colonialism, magic, and religion. The author states at the end that it's not telling any one story in particular, however it was so reminiscent of the Indigenous stories in the US that that was the image I had the entire time.

 

Jill Of All Trades


If you are looking for one author that covers more than one genre, Palmer Pickering is your person! Palmer’s science fiction series—Star Children Saga—takes place in 2090 and is based on the moon. Her two main characters are twin siblings who must save Earth from a ruthless enemy at a time when the only force more powerful than alien technology is magic. It is a rollicking yet poignant adventure in the not too distant future when we have colonized the moon and nearly lost Earth to an alien-backed army. Only the shamans remain free, plus the lucky ones who escaped to the moon. Palmer Pickering deals with an expansive world full of vibrant and interesting characters. I was hooked from Chapter 1 on Torr and Cassidy's story and wanted to follow their every move. I was instantly interested in their story and all that surrounded it.


 

This is an amazing list of indie authors from multiple genres for you to check out! If you love epic fantasy and are a fan of Brandon Sanderson, Brent Weeks, and DRAGONS add Jim Wilbourne to your list! Your first journey into his world of Continua is totally free!



 

Kate Cobb is the content creator under the name The Literary Apothecary. She lives in North Carolina. By day, she works at Duke University; by night, she adventures in all things literary. Kate reads in all the genres: fiction, nonfiction, science fiction, fantasy, romance—you name it, she reads it! She has a BA in English, a MFA in Creative Writing, and soon an MLIS degree! Kate is a Hufflepuff to the core, Taurus in the stars, and part hobbit in life.


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