Top Four Hidden Gems (or Books You May Not Know)

These are books that I think haven’t got much recognition but I feel deserve more. I’ve rated all of these books 4+ stars (or at least in my head I have). I originally tried to be as diverse as possible, genre-wise, but I only just started trying reading outside my favorite genres, so I didn’t succeed. But then again, I only know about these books because I read so much fantasy, so this list wouldn’t be possible if I didn’t like fantasy as a genre so much, haha.

Here’s a short summary (or key words) of each book and then longer summaries, along with some short personal thoughts about each book, if any catch your interest.

  1. Nice Dragons Finish Last: Dragon Shapeshifters, Urban Fantasy, Mages, Spirits
  2. The Legend of Eli Monpress: Wizards, Thieves, Swordsman, Demons, Goddesses
  3. Deadly Class: Assassins, Assassin High School, 1980s, San Francisco, Graphic Novel
  4. Brave Story: For RPG/Manga Fans, Adventure, Quest

One: Nice Dragons Finish Last by Rachel Aaron – Urban Fantasy

As the smallest dragon in the Heartstriker clan, Julius survives by a simple code: keep quiet, don’t cause trouble, and stay out of the way of bigger dragons. But this meek behavior doesn’t fly in a family of ambitious magical predators, and his mother, Bethesda the Heartstriker, has finally reached the end of her patience.

Now, sealed in human form and banished to the DFZ–a vertical metropolis built on the ruins of Old Detroit–Julius has one month to prove that he can be a ruthless dragon or kiss his true shape goodbye forever. But in a city of modern mages and vengeful spirits where dragons are considered monsters to be exterminated, he’s going to need some serious help to survive this test.

He only hopes humans are more trustworthy than dragons…

Although I categorized this book as urban fantasy, I was tempted to categorize it as young adult, just because Julius is a younger heroine. What I liked about this book, apart from the dragons, was the fact that Julius had to solve his problems without his “oh-so-mighty” dragon powers. You also see a gradual, believable growth in Julius as a character. I used to only read books with characters that I liked but have now moved onto books that I think have believable characters.

They can be absolutely horrible people but they have to be believable horrible people.

Two: The Legend of Eli Monpress (#1-#3) by Rachel Aaron – Fantasy

Eli Monpress is talented. He’s charming. And he’s a thief.

But not just any thief. He’s the greatest thief of the age – and he’s also a wizard. And with the help of his partners – a swordsman with the most powerful magic sword in the world but no magical ability of his own, and a demonseed who can step through shadows and punch through walls – he’s going to put his plan into effect.

The first step is to increase the size of the bounty on his head, so he’ll need to steal some big things. But he’ll start small for now. He’ll just steal something that no one will miss – at least for a while.

Like a king.

One of the things I like about Rachel Aaron books is that they aren’t too heavy. They’re light reads but despite not containing heavy topics, they’re still really fun to read. I generally like any book with thieves in them, and this one isn’t an exception. Except Eli Monpress is a wizard thief. The combination of the two intrigued me and so I picked the book up, discovering that I surprisingly liked it.

If you happen to like books about thieves, I also recommend The Lies of Locke Lamora.

Three: Deadly Class Vol. 1: Reagan Youth – Graphic Novel

It’s 1987. Marcus Lopez hates school. His grades suck. The jocks are hassling his friends. He can’t focus in class. But the jocks are the children of Joseph Stalin’s top assassin, the teachers are members of an ancient league of assassins, the class he’s failing is “Dismemberment 101,” and his crush has a double-digit body count. Welcome to the most brutal high school on earth, where the world’s top crime families send the next generation of assassins to be trained. Murder is an art. Killing is a craft. At Kings Dominion School for the Deadly Arts, the dagger in your back isn’t always metaphorical.

Collecting the first arc of the most critically acclaimed new series of 2014, by writer RICK REMENDER (BLACK SCIENCE, Fear Agent) and rising star artist WESLEY CRAIG (Batman). Experience the 1980s underground through the eyes of the world’s most damaged and dangerous teenagers.

*Gasp* This book isn’t fantasy! I know I’m surprised too. Deadly Class was actually a hard book to categorize but I felt the book deserved a spot on this list because the content was so dark and gritty. Overall amazing. The art had a bold quality to it and the characterization is amazing.

Four: Brave Story by Miyuki Miyabe – Fantasy

Young Wataru Mitani’s life is a mess. His family has problems they never told him about, a new student at school upsets everything he knows about the world, and a girl’s voice rings in his mind all hours of the night. Desperately he searches for some way to change his life; a way to alter his fate.

To achieve his goal, he must navigate the magical world of Vision, a land filled with creatures both fierce and friendly. And to complicate matters, he must outwit a merciless rival from the real world.

Wataru’s ultimate destination is the Tower of Destiny where a Goddess of fate awaits. Only when he has finished his journey and collected five elusive gemstones will he possess the Demon’s Bane; the key that will unlock his future.

Charity, bravery, faith, grace and the power of darkness and light: these are the provinces of each gemstone. Brought together, they have the immeasurable power to change Wataru’s life.

I’m pretty positive I wrote about this book but I can’t seem to find the post. So maybe I wrote the post before I got my domain? Anyways, Brave Story reads like a manga/RPG. So if you like reading big books and enjoy reading manga or playing RPGs, I would highly recommend this book! This is also one of those books where I want to categorize it into children’s book because I feel like it is so versatile.

I wanted to thank everyone for their thoughtful and insightful comments on my last post. I think a great aspect of reflection posts is that they always generate some type of discussion. Even though I didn’t reply to every comment, I enjoyed reading about everyone’s personal experiences and thoughts on prejudices.

As always, thanks for reading!

19 thoughts on “Top Four Hidden Gems (or Books You May Not Know)

  • I will definitely have to try and read these books at some point. They all sound like really good reads! I normally don’t read fantasy (I’m still stuck on YA ) but I hope to try and expand my reading. I’m particularly interested in the dragon one.

    It’s so cool to see you expanding your book genres a bit!

  • Deadly Class sounded like it belonged in the fantasy genre to me! I find that there are so, so, so many books out there. Everyone reads different things and just by talking to someone who likes to read, you can find out about a lot of new books. The “hidden gems” I know are usually by Australian authors – definitely very famous Australia-wide but tends to be sadly neglected and overshadowed by the U.S. market. And if there is anything I can’t find in an ebook version usually I would say that’s a pretty lesser-known book…

    • Darn haha. Just when I think I succeeded turns out I didn’t LOL I think I read one (fantasy) book by an Australian author. Although now that you mention it, I don’t think I’ve read many. I would be interested in hearing about your hidden gems! I like exploring new books that I haven’t heard of before.

    • Ooooh, I had no idea Brave Story was an anime! That makes a lot of sense. I thought the story sort of reminded me of a manga/anime.

  • I’ve not heard of any of these books! Thanks for introducing them to me. It’s always fun to see what other’s enjoy :)

    Fantasy and I have a weird relationship lately. I discovered that while I like that genre, I’m really picky about them. Like urban fantasy isn’t something I can do :/ Anything with vampires and zombies make me go in the other directions. I am not sure why because I did like vampire lore in high school, but now I can’t stomach them at all. I guess when it comes to fantasy, I prefer something that’s Tolkien-esque or Narnia-like.

    However, Brave Story does intrigue me since I do like manga and RPGs! I’m surprised I’ve never heard of this one before.

    • I agree! And I’m glad. That was my goal when I was writing the post out.

      LOL I haven’t read too many urban fantasies with zombies or vampires lately. Most of the ones tend to be paranormal fantasy, which is a little different than the fantasy I am normally more partial too, i.e. epic fantasy. I usually prefer something Tolkien-esque or Narnia-like as well!

  • i’m not sure why but these recommendations are so adorable! doesn’t make sense, i know but probably because they’re a more playful, fun read imo. i have never heard of these books before though so it’s nice to discover new ones. you always have interesting books that i never heard of!

    of course, all four of them are interesting but i have to say the first two are probably something that fit me more. they remind me of playful fantasy reads like percy jackson and harry potter – that kind of league, y’know. do they have annoying soapy romance love triangle crap going on? i like fantasy reads but i’ve been skeptical on picking up new series because, as you know, YA fantasy reads today mostly talk about love triangle crap rather than completing the main quest. i’ll try the graphic novels via digital read though because for me personally, books aren’t cheap and i prefer spending cash on, well…books and not graphic novels. no offense though.

    • They are! I hadn’t thought about that but they totally are, haha.

      And thankfully, none of them have a love triangle! Nice Dragons Finish Last does have a little romance but it’s not the focal point of the story. And I hate when that happens too! I like reading romance but I don’t really like reading it in the fantasy books.

      And that’s understandable! I like buying e-books and usually I’ll buy the single issues digitally, unless I really want it physically.

  • They all sound like really interesting books and it’s great that you mentioned them because I had no heard of them before. :) I think, from the synopsises book #3 looks the most appealing to me. :D

  • Haha, I LOVE the title of this blog post. “Hidden Gems (Or Books)” – very you Rezina!

    Sadly I’ve not heard of any of these books but I’m excited to find out more about them :D I especially like the sound of The Legend of Eli Monpress (#1-#3) by Rachel Aaron, sounds like a book I’d really enjoy. I love fantasy too!

  • Oh these book recommendations come at such a good time – I was just trying to decide what to read next! I will absolutely get these from my library – the first and last seem particularly interesting to me! Thanks for sharing!

  • I love it when we discover hidden gems whether it’s books, food, accessories, or anything else we fancy. I like how you summarized the four books by some keywords. The Legend of Eli Monpress and Deadly Class caught my attention! I like how Eli Monpress reminds me of World of Warcraft/some MMO game. Wizards are the best!

    It’s interesting how characters are developed as relatives of some figures like Stalin. I like the twist of the story being about assassins and stuff XD. Four: Brave Story sounds like a fascinating RPG novel. I could probably get into it too!

  • I’ve always wanted to read more books from the fantasy genre. I haven’t read many, but it’s always been such an interesting genre. I will definitely be looking into these books that you’ve listed. I especially like the sound for Two: The Legend of Eli Monpress.

  • I haven’t heard of any of these, so thanks for the recommends! The Legend of Eli Monpress sounds like a fun read, and Deadly Class is probably something up my alley, especially since I like graphic novels. Not sure why, but things with assassins always catch my eye, and I like dark stories too. That’s interest that you say Brave Story reads like a manga or RPG. I’d probably like that too!

  • All of these sound really interesting, but I especially like the sound of Deadly Class. I recently read a girly YA novel about a school of assassins, but it was mainly a romance story, which annoyed me so much. Why make it about romance when you have a school of assassins? Deadly Class definitely sounds so much better!

    I find that having a horrible narrator/main character makes a book more interesting sometimes. Believable characters are generally flawed anyway, but when it goes one step further and they’re actually awful/evil then you already have an interesting story. Everyone loves a bad guy!

  • Wow, I love hearing about all of these books. I definitely want to expand and read beyond my usual genre too. It’s funny you mention it, but now that I think about it, I love a lot of books with thieves. It’s like they’re breaking the rules, but still have honor? The “bad boys” of books?

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