This last week marked the Autumn Equinox, so as we’re officially in Autumn now, I wanted to share seven books I would absolutely recommend every autumn. They’re just packed with magic, fairies, ghosts, ghouls, and history. Every one of them.
So, if you’re wondering what to read on these darkening nights, check out my chosen books below.
Book One: The Darkest Part of the Forest by Holly Black
Children can have a cruel, absolute sense of justice. Children can kill a monster and feel quite proud of themselves. A girl can look at her brother and believe they’re destined to be a knight and a bard who battle evil. She can believe she’s found the thing she’s been made for.
Hazel lives with her brother, Ben, in the strange town of Fairfold where humans and fae exist side by side. The faeries’ seemingly harmless magic attracts tourists, but Hazel knows how dangerous they can be, and she knows how to stop them. Or she did, once.
At the center of it all, there is a glass coffin in the woods. It rests right on the ground and in it sleeps a boy with horns on his head and ears as pointed as knives. Hazel and Ben were both in love with him as children. The boy has slept there for generations, never waking.
Until one day, he does…
As the world turns upside down, Hazel tries to remember her years pretending to be a knight. But swept up in new love, shifting loyalties, and the fresh sting of betrayal, will it be enough?
Why I Recommend
I honestly recommend anything by Holly Black, and I feel that anything with fairies in it leads nicely to this time of year. Or that’s my thinking anyway.
There were probably four main characters to this book, although Hazel is the main point of focus. She is a strong, independent character, and I liked her struggle with memory and her interactions with the fey.
The other characters, Ben, Jack, and Severin were interesting characters in themselves, and one of the things I liked about the book was that there were POVs of characters other than Hazel – even though Hazel was my favourite character of the bunch.
The story line was really interesting and flowed along at a good pace. There was also a fair bit of romance involved, which worked in nicely with the plot.
Overall, it had a great atmosphere to it, and plays in nicely with this time of year of magic and mystery.
Book Two: The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman
Nobody Owens, known to his friends as Bod, is a normal boy. He would be completely normal if he didn’t live in a graveyard, being raised and educated by ghosts.
There are dangers and adventures for Bod in the graveyard. But it is in the land of the living that real danger lurks for it is there that the man Jack lives and he has already killed Bod’s family.
Why I Recommend
It’s that time of year for spooky ghost stories. I wouldn’t say this is that spooky, but it’s certainly a ghostly story. It’s perfect for 9-12 year olds who want a bit of spookiness but are still able to sleep at night.
It begins with a boy called Bod who lives in a graveyard. You find out why he lives in the graveyard, and follow his journey as he grows up, meets the inhabitants of the graveyard besides his adopted family, and steps outside of the confines into the world beyond. But there are dangers on the other side, dangers he has to outwit.
I really loved this little book, and like to read it around this time of year just to get into the spooky spirit. Nobody Owens starts off as a young inquisitive boy and grows up into an independent and curious teenager, meeting friends both of spirit and substance along the way.
If you’re looking for a sweet little story but with a bit of danger lurking, adventure, and clever worldbuilding, look no further.
Book Three: The Hazel Wood by Melissa Albert
Seventeen-year-old Alice and her mother have spent most of Alice’s life on the road, always a step ahead of the strange bad luck biting at their heels. But when Alice’s grandmother, the reclusive author of a book of pitch-dark fairy tales, dies alone on her estate – the Hazel Wood – Alice learns how bad her luck can really get. Her mother is stolen away – by a figure who claims to come from the cruel supernatural world where her grandmother’s stories are set. Alice’s only lead is the message her mother left behind: STAY AWAY FROM THE HAZEL WOOD.
To retrieve her mother, Alice must venture first to the Hazel Wood, then into the world where her grandmother’s tales began . . .
Why I Recommend
Oh there was something so atmospheric and brilliant about this book. I loved it from start to finish.
It’s sort of a dark fantasy, playing on the elements of fairytales, with a girl on the hunt for her mother in a strange otherland of fairytale creatures and stories that are slightly at odds with your typical fairy tales… or rather, more in line with the original fairy tales – not the Disney-fied versions we all know these days.
So if you remember that these are like the original fairy tales, you’ll understand the darker atmosphere. The story moved along at a good pace, but I liked the other little stories dropping in, relating to those fairytales. I enjoyed the characters of Alice and Ellery Finch, although I probably enjoyed Finch’s character a bit more. I’m hoping for more of his character in the other book, as yes, there is a second book.
If you’re looking for fairytales but you’re after something a bit darker, a bit more mysterious, and a bit more gothic, I recommend this book to you.
Book Four: Cuckoo Song by Frances Hardinge
The first things to shift were the doll’s eyes, the beautiful grey-green glass eyes. Slowly they swivelled, until their gaze was resting on Triss’s face. Then the tiny mouth moved, opened to speak.
‘What are you doing here?’ It was uttered in tones of outrage and surprise, and in a voice as cold and musical as the clinking of cups. ‘Who do you think you are? This is my family.’
When Triss wakes up after an accident, she knows that something is very wrong. She is insatiably hungry; her sister seems scared of her and her parents whisper behind closed doors. She looks through her diary to try to remember, but the pages have been ripped out.
Soon Triss discovers that what happened to her is more strange and terrible than she could ever have imagined, and that she is quite literally not herself. In a quest to find the truth, she must travel into the terrifying Underbelly of the city to meet a twisted architect who has dark designs on her family – before it’s too late…
Why I Recommend
Despite the main character being quite young – not even a teenager, I would say this book is for young teens. It’s quite dark, but still enjoyable I think as a Young Adult novel. It’s set in a time just after the World War, where times are changing and the creatures of the dark Underbelly are trying to find their place in those changing times.
Any book by Frances Hardinge is filled with a beutifually orchestrated world of strange magic and incredible characters. I have yet to find one I do not like, and I choose this book as a good one for autumn purely because of the link with fey creatures. That, and at the beginning of the book, it references apples on the trees, and considering autumn is the perfect season for apple picking, I like to think that the book takes place during the late autumn.
Non-Triss is a cleverly created character, and it’s quite amazing to see the difference between her and real-Triss. I always find the female characters in Frances Hardinge’s books are strong, capable characters and Non-Triss is a clear-cut picture of that. The villains are villainesque and the story pulls you in. Read if you’re after an intriguing tale about changelings and fairies in a more historical setting than perhaps some later Young Adult novels are set, but still in a time where technology is rising.
Book Five: An Enchantment of Ravens by Margaret Rogerson
Every enchantment has a price.
With a flick of her paintbrush, Isobel creates stunning portraits for a dangerous set of clients: the fair folk. These immortal creatures cannot bake bread or put a pen to paper without crumbling to dust. They crave human Craft with a terrible thirst, and they trade valuable enchantments for Isobel’s paintings. But when she receives her first royal patron—Rook, the autumn prince—Isobel makes a deadly mistake. She paints mortal sorrow in his eyes, a weakness that could cost him his throne, and even his life.
Furious, Rook spirits Isobel away to his kingdom to stand trial for her crime. But something is seriously amiss in his world, and they are attacked from every side. With Isobel and Rook depending upon each other for survival, their alliance blossoms into trust, perhaps even love . . . a forbidden emotion that would violate the fair folks’ ruthless laws, rendering both their lives forfeit. What force could Isobel’s paintings conjure that is powerful enough to defy the ancient malice of the fairy courts?
Isobel and Rook journey along a knife-edge in a lush world where beauty masks corruption and the cost of survival might be more frightening than death itself.
Why I Recommend
This is a true autumn book, and the reason for that is that Rook is the autumn Fairy Prince. So, right there, you know that the autumn theme is thick with this novel.
I found this book delightful in its autumnness. The Autumn Court of the Fey is filled with things we delight in this particular season, and Margeret Rogerson does a great job of describing the Fey Court and the strange creatures that inhabit it.
The story was interesting and Isobel was an ok character. This is a clear-cut Young Adult fey novel with fairly clear-cut characters. I wouldn’t say there was anything exciting about it, though I quite liked the character of Rook. Why I recommend it for this season is that it is in tune with this time of year, with delightful descriptions and an ethereal world that will spirit you away into the season.
Book Six: Jamaica Inn by Daphne Du Maurier
On a bitter November evening, young Mary Yellan journeys across the rainswept moors to Jamaica Inn in honour of her mother’s dying request. When she arrives, the warning of the coachman begins to echo in her memory, for her aunt Patience cowers before hulking Uncle Joss Merlyn. Terrified of the inn’s brooding power, Mary gradually finds herself ensnared in the dark schemes being enacted behind its crumbling walls — and tempted to love a man she dares not trust.
Why I Recommend
Besides the fact that the setting of the book begins on a late autumnal evening, with the gothic and atmospheric moors in the background, I just felt this was a great book to curl up with on a rainy evening.
This is my first Daphne Du Maurier book, but after reading this book it certainly won’t be the last. Du Maurier writes intricate characters, an interesting plot line, and dip-dives into a bit of history here with smuggling and other dark deeds going on around the Inn. It takes place in the 18th century, so expect the cultural and societal aspects of the day.
I really enjoyed this book, even if some of the nefarious characters were distinctly horrible – but then, we need characters to hate, don’t we? Especially if they’re the villains? I was completely behind Mary. She’s a strong, independent woman of the time, with strong morals. Yet she is young, and you absolutely get that through her reckless decisions and actions. I don’t think this was necessarily a bad thing – it just gave more depth to her character.
So, if you’re after a dark and gothic read for this season, check out Jamaica Inn.
Book Seven: Outlander by Diana Gabaldon
The year is 1945. Claire Randall, a former combat nurse, is just back from the war and reunited with her husband on a second honeymoon when she walks through a standing stone in one of the ancient circles that dot the British Isles. Suddenly she is a Sassenach—an “outlander”—in a Scotland torn by war and raiding border clans in the year of Our Lord…1743.
Hurled back in time by forces she cannot understand, Claire is catapulted into the intrigues of lairds and spies that may threaten her life, and shatter her heart. For here James Fraser, a gallant young Scots warrior, shows her a love so absolute that Claire becomes a woman torn between fidelity and desire—and between two vastly different men in two irreconcilable lives.
Why I Recommend
This is my seventh and final book that I recommend for this season, and actually it’s one of the first books I read out of all of them. I first read this book when I was eighteen, which was over fifteen years ago now. Since then, I’ve read it multiple times and still love it.
If you haven’t seen the TV show, or heard of the book (which, to be fair, there’s few people who are not going to know about this book), it’s a historical novel with hints at science fiction with the time-travelling. It begins in 1945 but jumps back in time to the mid 18th century, and is told in the perspective of Claire Randall. She’s forward thinking and independent even for the 1940s, but having her in the 18th century you really get behind her modern way of thinking and acting. I love her no-nonsense character, and it’s lovely to watch her grow and age throughout the series.
The historical references are fascinating, but it’s the love story that really takes precedence, and it’s endearing to watch the two main characters of Claire and Jamie interact and develop feelings for one another, even though Claire is caught between the fact that she has to get home to the 1940s and back to her husband, Frank.
I feel it’s a really good book for this time of year, not just because the beginning setting is autumn, but also just because it’s a lovely feel-good book. The character and plot are all deftly woven together, and you won’t be disappointed in this read. There’s political intrigue, romance, history, and the threat of witchcraft. There’s something for everyone, I tell you.
There’s many more autumnal books out there to get you into the spirit of the season. Feel free to share your favourite books you love to read this time of year!
Kate @ Kandid Chronicles x