What do you think about when you hear the word fantasy?

Do you imagine fire-breathing dragons streaking through the sky? Or perhaps you see a young rebel fighting against dark forces? Maybe neither of these images popped into your mind. Instead, you think fantasy can be found all around us—especially where you least expect it.

All of those answers are correct!

The beauty of fantasy literature is that it can meet you where you are while whisking you away to a different world. Fantasy takes the concept of “escaping into a good book” to the highest level, with characters, settings, and scenarios that can only happen between the pages (or between your headphones). Each story is a gateway to worlds filled with magic, adventure, and epic quests… but not all fantasy stories are built the same. We could write volumes on these differences and similarities, but the easiest way to break up this vast genre is into its two main subcategories: high fantasy and low fantasy.

While both invite readers into new realms, they do so in distinctly different ways and degrees. Let’s get into those differences a little bit!

Works of J.R.R. Tolkien and George R.R. Martin as examples of high fantasy literature

Works of J.R.R. Tolkien and George R.R. Martin as examples of high fantasy literature

High fantasy, often called epic fantasy, abandons reality and immerses the reader in an entirely new world. These settings are typically filled with their own intricate histories and cultures with a defined magic or power system. Two excellent examples of high or epic fantasy are the works of J.R.R. Tolkien and George R.R. Martin.

Although their writing styles differ—Martin has referred to himself as a “gardener” and sees Tolkien as more of an “architect”—they both tell otherworldly stories filled with high stakes, grand adventures, and awe-inspiring power. The fate of entire kingdoms or civilizations often hangs in the balance as their characters bravely embark on grand quests and face larger-than-life foes.

Works of Neil Gaiman and Stephen King as examples of low fantasy literature

Works of Neil Gaiman and Stephen King as examples of low fantasy literature

On the other hand, low fantasy brings the magical and the mundane closer together. These stories often take place in settings that closely resemble the real world, with magical elements subtly woven into the fabric of everyday life. Two examples of low fantasy are the works of Neil Gaiman and Stephen King. In their stories like Coraline (Gaiman) and IT (King) the fantastical elements serve as metaphors for real-life issues and emotions.

The conflicts in low fantasy are typically more personal and grounded, focusing on individual characters and their struggles rather than epic battles or world-saving quests. This often makes the low fantasy subgenre more relatable and palatable to the general reader, making it a great place to start if you don’t spend a lot of time in the fantasy section of your library or bookstore.

Despite these differences, both high and low fantasy share a common goal: to transport readers beyond the confines of reality and into realms where anything is possible. They explore themes of heroism, morality, and the power of the human spirit, each in their unique way. Whether you prefer the sweeping landscapes of high fantasy or the nuanced, character-driven tales of low fantasy, there’s something magical to be found in both.

Want to dive deeper into the captivating worlds of high and low fantasy? Sure you do! Read on for some must-listen audiobook recommendations for high and low fantasy from our team here at Dreamscape Media. 


High Fantasy


Written by W.A. Simpson, narrated by Ruthie Bowles

Audiobook cover of Tinderbox by W.A. Simpson

Isbet returns home to find the witch who raised her murdered and her prized possession, the Tinderbox, stolen.

A common man has used it to seize the throne—the same who conquered Prince Bram’s kingdom. Isbet’s goals are vengeance and reclaim the Box. For Bram, it is to free his homeland. Summoned to an underground kingdom, they must set aside their personal goals to stop dark fey from reviving an ancient magic. If they fail, the Riven Isles will be torn apart.

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The Last Phi Hunter
Written by Salinee Goldenberg, narrated by David Lee Huynh

Audiobook cover of Last Phi Hunter by Salinee Goldenberg

Ex, the youngest member of the Phi Hunters Order, has spent his life slaying the ghosts and demons of Suyoram Kingdom. While he takes great pride in his mystical trade, collecting dwindling bounties and peddling butchered spirit organs lacks the glory he craves. He’s determined to hunt down Shar-Ala—a demon of nightmares, of madness—who has eluded even Ex’s masters. That is, until his journey to glory is interrupted by a pregnant runaway…

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Gogmagog (The Chronicles of Ludwich duology)
Written by Jeff Noon, narrated by Matthew Lloyd Davies

Audiobook cover for Gogmagog by Jeff Noon

Gogmagog tells the story of an epic journey through the sixty-mile long ghost of a dragon. We travel by boat, a rickety steam launch captained by Cady Meade, a veteran taxi pilot on the river Nysis. In her heyday, she carried people and goods from the thriving seaports of the estuary into Ludwich, the capital city. But that was years ago. Now she’s drunk, holed up in a rundown seaside resort, telling her bawdy tales for shots of rum.

All that’s about to change, when two strangers seek her out, asking for transport.

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A Bright Heart
Written by Kate Chenli, narrated by Natalie Naudus

audiobook cover of A Bright Heart by Kate Chenli

Mingshin outsmarted three princes to help the man she loved become king. But she doesn’t see Ren’s betrayal coming, not until she’s lying in a pool of her own blood on the palace steps.

As she’s dying, Mingshin makes a desperate plea to the gods to turn back time and give her a chance to make things right.

Mingshin wakes up two years earlier, her prayer granted, and swears two things: Ren will never become king, and she will never fall in love again.

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Water Outlaws
Written by S. L. Huang, narrated by Emily Woo Zeller

Audiobook cover for Water Outlaws by S. L. Huang

Lin Chong is an expert arms instructor, training the Emperor’s soldiers in sword and truncheon, battle axe and spear, lance and crossbow. Unlike bolder friends who flirt with challenging the unequal hierarchies and values of Imperial society, she believes in keeping her head down and doing her job. But then a powerful man with a vendetta rips that carefully built life away.

Inspired by martial arts literature, this novel follows the Liangshan Bandits, mountain outlaws who proclaim a belief in justice—and who may just bring down an empire.

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The Legionnaire
Written by Samantha Traunfeld, narrated by Andie Penn and Alex Fowler

audiobook cover for The Legionnaire by Samantha Traunfeld

Friends and enemies become indistinguishable from each other in this epic military fantasy filled with intrigue and betrayal. Can Saiden, a Blood-Cursed legionnaire, Queen Loralei, a ruler blessed by the God of Life, and Mozare, Saiden’s partner and blessed by the Goddess of Death, survive long enough to fulfill their destinies without losing those closest to them, or will their missions irreparably ruin them—and possibly the entire kingdom? 

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Low Fantasy


Written by Cheri Priest, narrated by Traci Odom

Audiobook cover of Cinderwich by Cherie Priest

“Who put Ellen in the blackgum tree?”

Decades after trespassing children spotted the desiccated corpse wedged in the treetop, no one knows the answer.

Kate Thrush and her former college professor, Dr. Judith Kane, travel to Cinderwich, Tennessee, in hopes that maybe it was their Ellen: Katie’s lost aunt, Judith’s long-gone lover. But they’re not the only ones to have come here looking for closure.

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The Nameless Restaurant (The Hidden Dishes series)
Written by Tao Wong, narrated by Emily Woo Zeller

audiobook cover for The Nameless Restaurant by Tao Wong

There is a restaurant in Toronto.

Its entrance is announced only by a simple unadorned wooden door, varnished to a beautiful shine but without paint, hidden beside dumpsters and a fire escape. There is no sign, no indication of what lies behind the door. If you do manage to find the restaurant, the décor is dated and worn—homey, if one were to be generous. The service is atrocious; the proprietor, a grouch. The regulars are worse.

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Book 2, Chaotic Apéritifs, is out now!


Keepers of the Stones and Stars
Written by Michael Barakiva, narrated by Matthew Lloyd Davies

audiobook cover for Keepers of the Stones and Stars by Michael Barakiva

Reed is leading his best life: he’s just kissed the boy of his dreams, his band is finally taking off, and he’s a shoo-in to getting elected as next year’s Student Council president. But he’s ready to give it all up when his suspiciously aristocratic guidance counselor tells him he has been chosen to go on the adventure of a lifetime.

Because Reed is the first of five Stone Bearers to be chosen by magical gems and granted their powers. All he has to do is unite all five and lead them to seal a portal that will release an onslaught of uncontrollable chaotic magical energies and destroy the world as we know it. Should be easy enough, right?

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Dead Things Are Closer Than They Appear
Written by Robin Wasley, narrated by Natalie Naudus

audiobook cover for Dead Things Are Closer Than They Appear by Robin Wasley

Sid Spencer has always been the most normal girl in her abnormal hometown, a tourist trap built over one of the fault lines that seal magic away from the world. That is… until someone kills one of the Guardians who protect the seal.

Fighting through hordes of living corpses and uncontrollable growths of forest, Sid and a ragtag crew of would-be heroes are the only thing standing between their town and the end of the world as they know it. Between magic, murderers, and burgeoning crushes, Sid must survive being a perfectly normal girl caught in a perfectly abnormal apocalypse.

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