Here are 10 Books to Read Instead of Watching the Dungeons & Dragons Movie.
As Dungeons & Dragons players, we were all a healthy mix of nervous, excited, and skeptical when Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves was announced in 2021 (in theaters March 26, 2023). With nerd-centric movie/TV adaptations maintaining their current track record (looking at you, Rings of Power, Willow, Warcraft, Wheel of Time, Uncharted, Prince of Persia, etc, etc), no one wanted to get their hopes up for the latest attempt at bringing something beloved to the big screen. That being said, early reviewers have been delighted and surprised by Honor Among Thieves’ dedication to the spirit of D&D, references to classic locations, characters, and concepts, and an obvious love of the game. The current Rotten Tomatoes score is 87% (Certified Fresh).
So, maybe a better title for this list would be: 10 Books to Read Before/During/and After Watching the Dungeons & Dragons Movie.
1. For the Barbarian: LEGENDS & LATTES by Travis Baldree
You knew this was coming, so let’s just get it out of the way.
Have you ever wondered what happens to the battle-hardened, ragtag team after they’ve finished their adventuring? Travis Baldree explores this question in his ‘cozy fantasy’ centering on retired orc barbarian, Viv, who has left a life of blood and gore to follow her dream of opening a seaside town’s very first coffee shop (and no, no one has a clue what coffee is, other than Viv and the gnomes who introduced her to it). Short and sweet, LEGENDS & LATTES will feel comfortably familiar to the seasoned D&D player, reading more like a relaxed shopping episode than hectic combat.
If that’s not your cup of tea, however (or coffee, for the pun) then another more savage and classically ‘barbarian’ option like THE GREY BASTARDS by Jonathan French will work.
2. For the Ranger (and lovers of a good warrior band): KINGS OF THE WYLD by Nicholas Eames
KINGS OF THE WYLD is a hilarious, action-packed adventure full of heart and utter nonsense – just like any good D&D campaign. Shoutlines like “the boys are back in town”, “glory never gets old”, and “it’s time to get the band back together”, set the tone for the washed-up rock-and-roll-style quest to rescue the former band leader’s daughter, who has assembled her own heroes and found herself in dire straits (pick up the sequel BLOODY ROSE for more on that.) KINGS OF THE WYLD might sound like just another goofy romp, but it packs an emotional gut-punch that makes it very much worth your while.
3. For the Rogue: THE BLACKTONGUE THIEF by Christopher Buehlman
With similarly dark humour as KINGS OF THE WYLD, THE BLACKTONGUE THIEF follows draft-dodging thieves-guild-betraying trainwreck, Kinch Na Shannack, as he unwillingly teams up with the stoically badass knight, Galva, a junior witch, and a blind cat name Bully Boy on a search for Galva’s lost queen, encountering giants, krakens, and struggling to survive the aftermath of the goblin wars. (All sounds very D&D, doesn’t it?)
4. For the Paladin: PALADIN’S GRACE by T. Kingfisher
T. Kingfisher is best known for her horror novels like WHAT MOVES THE DEAD and THE HOLLOW PLACE, but that just means her fantasy work is packed with the creepy and weird, PALADIN’S GRACE being no exception.
After his patron god is unexpectedly slain, a paladin named Stephen is left to a life of aiding the acolytes of other gods, and fearing the uncontrollable fits of deadly rage that plague him, and the other surviving paladins, may return. Though reading mainly as a romance between Stephen and fugitive perfumer/alchemist, Grace, the story is filled with treachery, political intrigue, and the creepy fantasy elements that Kingfisher is known for.
5. For the Sorcerer: UPON A BURNING THRONE by Ashok K. Banker
In this enormously underrated epic, anyone wishing to lay claim to the Burnt Empire must pass the Test of Fire (and not burn to a crisp while sitting upon the eponymous Burning Throne). Rebellion and war come to a head in this East-Indian saga when an outlying kingdom with a suitable heir vows to destroy the Burnt Empire, leaving it up to two young princes to save the day (or not). Banker’s lyrical prose adds a level of depth not found in comparable titles.
(For the chaotic neutrals & lawful evils, try THE LOCKED TOMB trilogy by Tamsyn Muir)
6. For the Druid: SILVER IN THE WOOD & DROWNED COUNTRY by Emily Tesh
This pair of novellas are a queer, cottagecore introvert’s dream (aka, written for anyone who mains druid). Full of cats, dryads, and all manner of cozy forest creatures (while also hitting elements of THE WITCHER series, particularly in book two), SILVER IN THE WOOD is the story of Tobias, the ‘Wild Man’ tethered to Greenhollow, content with his life of solitude. But when Henry Silver stumbles in (literally), the darkness at the heart of the forest comes to light. Two gorgeous, quick reads that will make you smile and cry at the same time.
7. For the Cleric (and Wizard): UNNATURAL MAGIC by C.M. Waggoner
Speaking of cottagecore books that will make you smile-cry, C.M. Waggoner’s often-missed debut is a unique take on gender, class, and adventure. The ‘wizard’ in this case is Onna, a powerful spellslinger eager to prove herself in the boys-club that is magical education. The ‘cleric’ is Tsira, a misfit troll who saves/befriends a human soldier (have you read anything else from a troll’s perspective?). The POVs cross as they are both roped into a murderous plot targeting trolls.
8. For the Fighter: THE COWARD by Stephen Aryan
Ten years after defeating the Ice Lich and returning as the only survivor of his band of legendary heroes, Kell Kressia and his famous sword are once again called upon to save the Five Kingdoms, this time with an ensemble of not-so-heroic companions. While sometimes pitched similarly to KINGS OF THE WYLD, THE COWARD is in fact an examination of real life after adventure, exploring themes of PTSD, fear and loss, and what it means to be a ‘hero’. Aryan’s storytelling is packed with raw emotion, beautiful scenery, and awesome combat. Plus, this is a duology, making it an obvious choice for anyone holding out for a bingeable (non) hero.
Looking for a longer series? Try THE BLACK COMPANY by Glen Cook.
9. For the Bard: THE HARP OF KINGS by Juliet Marillier
Searching for a series that features the most fabulous and arguably complex class? Look no further than the Warrior Bards trilogy. These bards aren’t sidekicks or simple minstrels. In Marillier’s epic saga, Liobhan and her brother train in the combat styles of singing, whistling, and harp-playing to join the elite warrior bands of Swan Island. Thrown into a mission before they are ready, Liobhan comes face-to-face with otherworldly powers. With creatures, spells, and NPCs reminiscent of classic D&D, THE HARP OF KINGS is an underrated masterpiece.
10. For the Wizard and Warlock: THE STARLESS CROWN by James Rollins
Another addition to the “band of unlikely heroes” category, THE STARLESS CROWN follows a young student of magic, a drunk prince, a thief-on-the-run, and a former soldier with a magic weapon on their quest to prevent the end of the world. What seems like a run-of-the-mill archetypal adventure is enhanced by Rollins’ brutal prose (rooted in his thriller prowess), exceptionally unique side characters and animal companions, and wall-to-wall action. Its sequel, THE CRADLE OF ICE, was released in February 2023.
For the Monk: SHE WHO BECAME THE SUN by Shelley Parker-Chan or THE POPPY WAR by R.F. Kuang
For the Artificer: A MASTER OF DJINN (and A DEAD DJINN IN CAIRO) by P. Djèlí Clark
For the Gunslinger: PROMISE OF BLOOD by Brian McClellan
For the Bloodhunter: OBSIDIAN by Sarah J. Daley