What do you give an avid reader who uses reading to escape? An extra layer of escapism…into new and different worlds. Ones in which they can forget about the monotony (or misery) of this world and hope for a new one.
But while these classics may have led the way to the destination of portal fantasy, other authors sure took that model and used it to play.
Read These Portal Fantasy Novels to At Least Pretend You Can Get The Hell Out of This World
There are more worlds out there than you can imagine—each only a page turn out of reach. But let’s be real…some portal fantasy books suck. They’re uninteresting or so poorly written we can’t get that same satisfaction, the feeling of maybe, possible, potentially, being able to open a usual door and end up somewhere new.
So this list is highly curated by avid (and picky) readers, ranked accordingly.
Here’s the top recommended portal fantasies:
1. The Starless Sea by Erin Morgenstern
We’re going to start you off with a standalone that’ll require you to suspend your disbelief for the duration of the book—and it’s worth it. For anyone who’s read Morgenstern’s other books, you know her style. Slow to get rolling but once you’re in…it’s hard to get out.
This one follows a main character through a door…one that ought not be there. But it is. And so is a mysterious underground world, a butler-type guy with no answers (he can give), and a rising tide that has nothing to do with the ocean.
2. The Ten Thousand Doors of January by Alix E. Harrow
The cover alone might make you want to read this book (though we do know that even bad covers can contain great books). This cover accurately depicts the world of January—the person, not the month.
When a book leads the overly curious January to a story of doors, one she seems to relate to extensively, she’s taken on an adventure she couldn’t have imagined for herself. Readers rank this one as wondrous and incredibly satisfying when you finish.
3. Wayward Children by Seanan McGuire
Seanan McGuire is known for her ability to take you somewhere completely different. And much like her Alchemical Journeys books, this series will suck you in…and not let you go.
Where do the children who fall into the wrong world end up after their story is done? Not home to their own world the way they wish they could. At Miss West’s home for Wayward children, they just want to get back to their own fantasy world.
With Nancy’s arrival…darkness lurks around every corner. Where did it come from? Why is it here? When will these children be able to make it home, where they belong?
4. The Dragon Heart Legacy by Nora Roberts
A girl from Philadelphia with a treasure she’s only discovering. A man emerging from a lake, sword in hand, to protect the fey world. When Breen Kelly, drowning in student debt and the plague of being in your early 20s discovers her dead mother has been hiding a secret investing account in her name worth millions and funded by her long-lost dad, her world opens—literally.
Once she uses some of the funds on a trip to Ireland, the life she knows is swallowed up with the mysteries of another world completely.
If you love dragons, banter, and daddy issues (let’s be real), this series is for you.
5. Mither Mages: The Lost Gate by Orson Scott Card
A world within a world. The mountains of Virginia hold more than just vast emptiness. Danny North’s cousins can use magic whenever they want, so long as commoners never see. Danny himself is waiting…still waiting for a talent to emerge.
With trolls, golems, ghosts, and complex family ties and secrets, this portal fantasy series is a classic.
6. The Midnight Library by Matt Haig
While your algorithm may have showed you this one due to its popularity, I couldn’t just not put it here. Overwhelmingly, readers rank this portal fantasy so high, you need to read it if you haven’t.
With over 200,000 ratings on Amazon and a 4.3 star average, it’s worth a read. What if each book you read was actually a portal into another world? Matt Haig answers this question with this masterful piece we can see becoming a classic in literature.
7. Fever Series by Karen Marie Moning
Mac’s sister is murdered, with nothing pointing to a reason why other than a weird message left on Mac’s phone. When it brings her to Ireland, she’s forced into a world—and a life—she never thought possible.
While mourning her sister and coming to terms with the fact that this world has always existed outside her knowledge, she now has to figure out these dang powers while navigating a world teeming with evil in disguise.
8. Abarat Series by Clive Barker
Candy Quackenbush has no idea what to do with her future. It’s a mystery…until it isn’t. Now she’s forced into a world where every island is a different hour of day, where she has to save Abarat from ancient dark forces looming underneath.
She can do this. She thinks she can do this.
9. Another Kingdom Series by Andrew Klavan
This series title is straight to the point. You’ll wander into a different kingdom with L.A.-based screenwriter Austin Lively after he accidentally wanders into the wrong door.
There, he suddenly finds himself holding a murder weapon while standing of the victim. When locked up and fearing for his life, he’s suddenly transported back to L.A.
Wait…did that really happen? When lines between reality blur, Austin will have to figure out his own path while in search of a missing manuscript rumored to have all the answers.
10. Gilded Blood Series by Rachel Rener
When Talia ignores her gorgeous boss and uses the hands-off ink to tattoo a client’s butt cheek, she never, in a million years, would have guess the reason she wasn’t supposed to use said ink.
Tattoos coming to life? Magical portal in a filing cabinet in her bosses office?
Sexy boss is actually an incubus? Okay…she just thought the ink was expensive, not magic. She’s a bit in over her head…isn’t she?
11. The Hollow Places by T. Kingfisher
Kara is recently divorced and looking for any excuse to put her mind on something other than that fact. So when she finds a weird message written in a hidden bunker inside her uncle’s house, it doesn’t take much for her to cling to their true meanings.
No matter if it takes her to a world of horrors in the form of countless realities. Only in these worlds, the monsters grow strong on thoughts ripe with fear.
12. Beyonders by Brandon Mull
Jason Walker thought his life was too predictable. On what he assumed would be another mundane trip to the zoo, he quickly finds himself not at the hippo tank but a world completely separate.
One that, in recent times with the new ruler, has come to despise outside visitors. He could have been accepted there once, but now he has to find a way home as soon as possible.
Maybe Rachel, someone else stuck in Lyrian, will be able to help.
13. Shades of Magic Series by V.E. Schwab
Kell is the last of her kind, the Antari with the ability to travel between parallel Londons. It makes her job as an ambassador, traveling between realms to deal with challenges, easier.
Less officially, Kell is also a smugler, aiding people who are willing to pay glimpses into other worlds. But of course, one of these dealings go quite wrong and soon, she finds herself stuck in Grey London, warding off a different kind of magic threatening to take hold.
14. The Gemma Doyle Series by Libba Bray
This partly historical fantasy is set in 1895 and Gemma has been shipped off.
After her mother’s suicide when she’s only 16, Gemma is forced to leave everything she knows in India for a boarding school in England, where she keeps predicting certain things happening in the future. While definitely a portal fantasy, people who want a book like Bridgerton are sure to
If you love the spiritual realm, give this series a real shot!
15. Mordant’s Need by Stephen R. Donaldson
Terisa lives a pretty normal life, with wealthy parents who are mostly absent, surrounded with plenty of mirrors to keep herself company.
When Gerard appears from one of her many mirrors, Terisa is whisked away to save the man’s home realm…despite not having magic or abilities or really anything one would need to save a realm.
Not to mention the fact that this realm treats women like playthings instead of people.
16. Door to Door by T.L. Brown
Before Emily turned 30, she believed that doors simply connected rooms. But after her late father’s journals land on her doorstep, she quickly comes to undersatnd that they can lead to other places—other worlds—entirely.
Now she’s tasked with finding the crimson stone, all while being tracked down by the very people who killer father.
17. The Iron Fey by Julie Kagawa
If you’re a fan of hidden origins, crappy princes, and faeries, this series is for you. Meghan Chase turns sixteen and everything changes.
Not only does her brother go missing, but she soon learns that she’s not who she thought. Now, she’s a pawn in a deadly war.
No matter your taste, there are plenty of portal fantasy stories out there to keep you company. These are ranked highest by readers.
Happy reading, rankers.