How many of you desperately wanted to wander into a wardrobe to the land of Narnia or fall down a rabbit hole into Wonderland when you were growing up? We sure did! Though, admittedly, we could do without the Red Queen and the White Witch. 

What connects Alice in Wonderland and Chronicles of Narnia? They’re both portal fantasies – alternatively known as portal fiction! Portal fantasy has been around for a while and you have likely watched or read content that falls into this subgenre.

What is portal fiction? According to Masterclass, portal fiction is a subgenre of speculative fiction centering on characters that move from their present reality to another world or alternate space via a “portal” of some kind. 

What is a portal? A portal is a broad term to describe a way that gets a character from World A to World B. The “portal” itself could be anything: a stone, a door, a rabbit hole, a wardrobe, or even death. The portal is a doorway that lets a character, either voluntarily or involuntarily, travel through time, space, or reality into another, usually more fantastical, world.

Other famous examples of portals in portal fiction:

  • In Outlander, we see Claire touch a circle of ancient standing stones and be transported to 18th-century Scotland.
  • In Coraline, we see her discover a small door in her family’s new apartment that leads into an eerie, parallel world.
  • In Inuyasha, Kagome falls into a well located in her family shrine that ends up transporting her to the Sengoku period.

If you’re familiar with Japanese media, it’s likely you may have also come across the term isekai. But just what is isekai, anyway? Isekai is a Japanese term that roughly translates to “another world,” and is a subgenre of speculative fiction where someone gets transported to, you guessed it, another world.

So are isekai and portal fantasy the same genre? Pretty much! Isekai is just a translated term that essentially stands for the same kind of subgenre. It’s becoming more popular in the West to see the term isekai and can be frequently present in a subgenre called litRPG. 

Want a deeper dive into what LitRPG is? Check out this blog post!

Sci-fi books that explore virtual reality can even be extended to portal fantasy and isekai. We would be shocked if you haven’t heard of Sword Art Online – it’s a hugely popular anime/manga where virtual reality players find themselves stuck in a popular virtual game’s world. In the case of virtual reality, even though their physical body isn’t transported to a fantastical world, their mind is.

So… why is portal fantasy/isekai so popular? Portal fantasies act as an escape from mundane daily life and allow characters to discover – along with the reader – a more extraordinary world vastly different from their own.

Readers want to be swept away when they read a book, and portal fantasy and isekai do just that. They sweep away characters who typically are down on their luck or feel stifled with their life and find themselves in a whole new world where they can be the main character. Instead of reading about heroic and epic adventures, they get to star in them.

Take the classic fantasy book The Neverending Story. Bastian is hiding from bullies in his school’s attic when he picks up a strange book and unexpectedly finds himself as an actual character in the book’s magical, but doomed, world of Fantastica. And this isn’t the only case where a character like Bastian becomes the hero! Look at just about any book that can fall under the portal fantasy/isekai subgenre and you’ll likely find them riddled with underdog main characters. 

Want to explore our love affair with underdogs? Check out this blog post!

Ready to go on an adventure and journey into worlds unknown? Then check out our recommendations of isekai/portal fantasy audiobooks!


Scorched Earth
Written by Harish R. Bharadwaj, narrated by Vikas Adam

audiobook cover image for Scorched Earth, book 1 in the Pygilist series, by Harish R. Bharadwaj100 artifacts, 100 people, countless monsters, one dungeon, and only one Centurion… Dive into the first installment of this isekai adventure series with dungeon crawler elements, including powerful artifacts, treacherous zones, and dangerous monsters.

Every century, the dungeon awakens and drags people from different worlds into a fight for their survival. Parth, a pro boxer, is one of the summoned hundred, displaced by the dungeon’s latest awakening.

After achieving the highest synchronization rate on record with a powerful magical artifact, he is thrust into the dungeon with a team of other isekai’d artifact wielders. He will fight men, beasts, and monsters, seeing just how far he can go.

But only one can win it all and become the era’s Centurion. In his old life, Parth suffered a string of losses, the tragic deaths of his parents compounding his downward spiral. But transported to this new world and given the incredible opportunity to wield power beyond his imagination, he’ll accept nothing less than victory.

Parth will win it all or die trying.

Learn more >


Immorality Starts with Generosity
Written by Plutus, narrated by J.S. Arquin

Live generously or die trying. In this first-in-series title, a lost soul from Earth transmigrates into a world of cultivation and finds himself in the body of a playboy noble who is wasting his life.

Except Chen Haoran doesn’t have any memories, can’t let anyone know he’s not the same person, and is immediately involved in a conspiracy with another powerful noble family involving the downfall of a prominent young genius.

Luckily, he came to this world with a power: whatever he gives to someone as a gift he’ll get it back 100 times better.

His first target? His new wife, the former top young genius.

Learn More >


Wrong Divinity : Oh Sht! I Fcking Hate Spiders!
Written by Dustin Tigner, narrated by Qarie Marshall & Reba Buhr

Wrong Divinity cover
Wrong Divinity is the start of a new GameLit series that balances comedy with serious themes. It’s an isekai—a portal fantasy—to the spirit realm. Join Dhane, our underdog, as he explores his new world, a world full of unique characters, RPG mechanics, and spiders—ugly, terrifying spiders—while he learns what it means to be an Arachnomancer.

Learn More >