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Oddly specific book recommendations

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A few months ago, I received an email from asking if they could feature THE HEIR AND THE SPARE, alongside my recommendations for five books with a similar theme. I was both delighted and terrified.

The thing is, H&S (as I fondly call it in my head and most of my save files) is kind of an outlier with my books. Even though it’s fantasy, it has no magic system, and it tackles some fairly heavy topics: abuse, repentance, forgiveness, and justified retribution. I was also, at the time, beleaguered with several other deadlines and responsibilities, so I worried about over-committing.

But, the Shepherd team didn’t need a quick turnaround, and the article itself sounded like fun. Thus, I brainstormed.

And I read.

And I asked friends for reading recommendations that would follow one of the themes/aesthetics I’d identified in my own book. Because you *know* I couldn’t think of more than two titles for any of my brainstormed categories.

(Does anyone else’s mind go blank when they have to provide this type of information? I felt basically illiterate for about a week.)

Finding five books with parallel vibes is hard work. I didn’t want mirror image stories. Instead, I was looking for different incarnations of a trope. As I read (and re-read, to make sure I was remembering older reads properly), the most oddly specific category emerged as the clear winner.

Therefore, I give you the finished product: “The best fantasy novels with protagonists mired in toxic family relationships.”

Image plate for my book recommendations article, "The best fantasy novels with protagonists mired in toxic family relationships." Five book covers pictured in a row: 1. The Ghost Bride by Yangsze Choo, 2. Witchblaze by Rabia Gale, 3. Cinderella Must Die by W.R. Gingell, 4. Charmed Life by Diana Wynne Jones, and 5. Mistborn by Brandon Sanderson.

As specific as this topic seems, “family” itself has such a broad number of variations: immediate, extended, step, in-laws, and found family all have a place among these recs.

I loved reading each of these books, and I had so much fun piling them together in this little franken-list.

So, enjoy!

And hey, if you’re interested in even more books with dysfunctional families, Shepherd can hook you up there as well! Explore to your heart’s content, fellow readers!