A favorite standby in fantasy fiction is the hidden, magical world—accessed through some sort of portal (think: wardrobe) or juxtaposed on top or living alongside our own mundane world (think: Diagon Alley). In A.M. Dellamonica’s delightful new fantasy novel, Child of A Hidden Sea, 24-year-old Sophie Hansa finds herself traveling to such a world. One minute, she’s trying to save a woman she believes to be her biological aunt from thugs; the next, she’s in the middle of a strange ocean, surrounded by luminescent moths, impoverished sailors, and impossible magic. Sophie quickly learns that this strange world, the island nations of Stormwrack, is her true home and that for some reason she has been cut off from her family and exiled her entire life. With the help of her newfound biological sister and a wary ship’s captain, Sophie navigates the choppy political waters that threaten to destroy this world—and manages to discover who she really is, and what home means, in the process.
Child of A Hidden Sea is a delightful novel that plays expertly with the hidden magical world trope, and I wholeheartedly recommend it—and inspired by Dellamonica’s new book, here’s a list of other favorite hidden worlds that should definitely be discovered (if you haven’t visited them for yourself already).
The Young Wizards Series by Diane Duane. Starting with So You Want to Be A Wizard, this expansive series of young adult fantasy novels lifts the veil on a whole world of magic, wizards, and peril—just under the veneer of our own mundane existence. Originally published in 1982, So You Want to Be a Wizard is a Harry Potter predecessor and also mixes science fiction and fantasy elements—an intriguing combination.
The Weather Warden Series by Rachel Caine. There are many urban fantasy series that play on the hidden world trope, although there are arguably more which actually embrace and are intimately aware of the supernatural and magical creatures within them. The Weather Warden books by Rachel Caine, starting with Ill Wind, however, is probably my favorite of the hidden supernatural UF worlds of the bunch. Jo Baldwin is a Warden of significant strength; she can manipulate the molecules in the air to create and dissipate devastating weather patterns. Little do the rest of us humans know, but Mother Nature is an angry sleeping giant, and she wants to destroy the humans who are destroying her—thanks to the wardens (and their slaves, the djinn), we stand a chance at survival. (Seriously, if you haven’t read this Urban Fantasy series yet, you really must get on that immediately.)
Fables by Bill Willingham. There’s a reason this comic book series is so popular and has won almost every conceivable award—it’s that good. In a small corner of Manhattan called Fabletown, completely unbeknownst to us muggles, fairy tale characters have been exiled from their homeworld (where they have escaped the murderous reach of The Adversary). Forget painful and protracted shows like Once Upon A Time and give this series a read if you’re looking for a good modern take on displaced fairy tale characters.
Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman. Mind the gap! If you don’t, you might end up in London Below, upon entry in which you will cease to exist as a human in the regular world and be ignored by the rest of the mundanes in London Above. You’ve been warned.
The City & The City by China Mieville. And now for something completely different! An unusual take on the hidden world trope, The City and The City involves two juxtaposed cities. Citizens actively must “unsee” one city in order to see the other—which makes for some weird reading (and active subversion of the hidden world trope).
Prospero’s Children by Jan Siegel. Having just read this book earlier this week, it seemed fortuitous timing. In Prospero’s Children, descendants of the long lost city of Atlantis discover that there’s more to the world than just studies, marriage and stability. Fern and Will discover a whole wealth of magic, and destiny awaits (along with mortal peril, naturally).
The Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling. Because come on. No list of books with this particular trope would be complete without the quintessential hidden magic of the wizarding world of Harry Potter. Muggles, begin your studies with Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (and get some of those gorgeous newly jacketed books, while you’re at it).
Lo and behold, our list of hidden magical world books! Are there any others you’ve got on your list that we’re forgetting?