10 fantasy books that explore the oceans!

I love the oceans – the diverse life, the weird and the wonderful, the great unknown. The oceans hold so much discovery and mystery. So many possibilities.

Here are 10 fantasy books in which you can get your ocean fix!


The Bone Ships

R J Barker

For generations, the Hundred Isles have built their ships from the bones of ancient dragons to fight an endless war.

The dragons disappeared, but the battles for supremacy persisted.

Now the first dragon in centuries has been spotted in far-off waters, and both sides see a chance to shift the balance of power in their favour. Because whoever catches it will win not only glory, but the war.

Red Seas Under Red Skies

Scott Lynch

Book Two of the Gentleman Bastards series.

After a brutal battle with the underworld that nearly destroyed him, Locke Lamora and his trusted sidekick, Jean, fled the island city of their birth and landed on the exotic shores of Tal Verrar to nurse their wounds. But even at this westernmost edge of civilization, they can’t rest for long—and they are soon back doing what they do best: stealing from the undeserving rich and pocketing the proceeds for themselves.

This time, however, they have targeted the grandest prize of all: the Sinspire, the most exclusive and heavily guarded gambling house in the world. Its nine floors attract the wealthiest clientele – and to rise to the top, one must impress with good credit, amusing behavior…and excruciatingly impeccable play. For there is one cardinal rule, enforced by Requin, the house’s cold-blooded master: it is death to cheat at any game at the Sinspire.Brazenly undeterred, Locke and Jean have orchestrated an elaborate plan to lie, trick, and swindle their way up the nine floors…straight to Requin’s teeming vault. Under the cloak of false identities, they meticulously make their climb – until they are closer to the spoils than ever.

But someone in Tal Verrar has uncovered the duo’s secret. Someone from their past who has every intention of making the impudent criminals pay for their sins. Now it will take every ounce of cunning to save their mercenary souls. And even that may not be enough.

A Wizard of Earthsea

Ursula K. Le Guin

Check out my review here!

Ged, the greatest sorcerer in all Earthsea, was called Sparrowhawk in his reckless youth.

Hungry for power and knowledge, Sparrowhawk tampered with long-held secrets and loosed a terrible shadow upon the world. This is the tale of his testing, how he mastered the mighty words of power, tamed an ancient dragon, and crossed death’s threshold to restore the balance.

Ship of Magic

Robin Hobb

Wizardwood, a sentient wood.
The most precious commodity in the world.
Like many other legendary wares, it comes only from the Rain River Wilds.

But how can one trade with the Rain Wilders, when only a liveship fashioned from wizardwood can negotiate the perilous waters of the Rain River? Rare and valuable a liveship will quicken only when three members, from successive generations, have died on board. The liveship Vivacia is about to undergo her quickening as Althea Vestrit’s father is carried on deck in his death-throes. Althea waits for the ship that she loves more than anything else in the world to awaken. Only to discover that the Vivacia has been signed away in her father’s will to her brutal brother-in-law, Kyle Haven…

Others plot to win or steal a liveship. The Paragon, known by many as the Pariah, went mad, turned turtle, and drowned his crew. Now he lies blind, lonely, and broken on a deserted beach. But greedy men have designs to restore him, to sail the waters of the Rain Wild River once more.

On Stranger Tides

Tim Powers

The book that inspired the Pirates of the Caribbean film by the same name.

Aboard the Vociferous Carmichael, puppeteer John Chandagnac is sailing toward Jamaica to claim his stolen birthright from an unscrupulous uncle, when the vessel is captured . . . by pirates! Offered a choice by Captain Phil Davies to join their seafaring band or die, Chandagnac assumes the name John Shandy and a new life as a brigand. But more than swashbuckling sea battles and fabulous plunder await the novice buccaneer on the roiling Caribbean waters–for treachery and powerful vodun sorcery are coins of the realm in this dark new world. And for the love of beautiful, magically imperiled Beth Hurwood, Shandy will set sail on even stranger tides, following the savage, ghost-infested pirate king, Blackbeard, and a motley crew of the living and the dead to the cursed nightmare banks of the fabled Fountain of Youth.

The Scar

China Mieville

Aboard a vast seafaring vessel, a band of prisoners and slaves, their bodies remade into grotesque biological oddities, is being transported to the fledgling colony of Nova Esperium. But the journey is not theirs alone. They are joined by a handful of travelers, each with a reason for fleeing the city. Among them is Bellis Coldwine, a linguist whose services as an interpreter grant her passage—and escape from horrific punishment. For she is linked to Isaac Dan der Grimnebulin, the brilliant renegade scientist who has unwittingly unleashed a nightmare upon New Crobuzon.

For Bellis, the plan is clear: live among the new frontiersmen of the colony until it is safe to return home. But when the ship is besieged by pirates on the Swollen Ocean, the senior officers are summarily executed. The surviving passengers are brought to Armada, a city constructed from the hulls of pirated ships, a floating, landless mass ruled by the bizarre duality called the Lovers. On Armada, everyone is given work, and even Remade live as equals to humans, Cactacae, and Cray. Yet no one may ever leave.

Lonely and embittered in her captivity, Bellis knows that to show dissent is a death sentence. Instead, she must furtively seek information about Armada’s agenda. The answer lies in the dark, amorphous shapes that float undetected miles below the waters—terrifying entities with a singular, chilling mission. . . .

The Waking Fire

Anthony Ryan

Throughout the vast lands controlled by the Ironship Syndicate, nothing is more prized than the blood of drakes. Harvested from the veins of captive or hunted Reds, Green, Blues and Blacks, it can be distilled into elixirs that give fearsome powers to the rare men and women who have the ability harness them—known as the blood-blessed.

But not many know the truth: that the lines of drakes are weakening. If they fail, war with the neighboring Corvantine Empire will follow swiftly. The Syndicate’s last hope resides in whispers of the existence of another breed of drake, far more powerful than the rest, and the few who have been chosen by fate to seek it.

Claydon Torcreek is a petty thief and an unregistered blood-blessed, who finds himself pressed into service by the protectorate and sent to wild, uncharted territories in search of a creature he believes is little more than legend. Lizanne Lethridge is a formidable spy and assassin, facing gravest danger on an espionage mission deep into the heart of enemy territory. And Corrick Hilemore is the second lieutenant of an ironship, whose pursuit of ruthless brigands leads him to a far greater threat at the edge of the world.

As lives and empires clash and intertwine, as the unknown and the known collide, all three must fight to turn the tide of a coming war, or drown in its wake.

Where the Waters Turn Black

Benedict Patrick

When gods and monsters battle, her music will not protect her…

The Crescent Atoll is a remote string of tropical islands, connected by long canoe journeys and a love of stories.

When Kaimana, a young ocarina player, discovers the lair of a taniwha – a legendary monster – she finds herself inspired. The song she is composing about their encounter will be her masterpiece, but her disturbance of the beast attracts the ruining gaze of the god of war. She must convince the taniwha to trust her if they are both to survive.

Where the Waters Turn Black is a standalone novel from Benedict Patrick’s Yarnsworld series. Inspired by the myths and legends of South Pacific island cultures, this book is perfect for those seeking fantasy stories with a hint of the unfamiliar.

The Reader

Traci Chee

Sefia knows what it means to survive. After her father is brutally murdered, she flees into the wilderness with her aunt Nin, who teaches her to hunt, track, and steal. But when Nin is kidnapped, leaving Sefia completely alone, none of her survival skills can help her discover where Nin’s been taken, or if she’s even alive. The only clue to both her aunt’s disappearance and her father’s murder is the odd rectangular object her father left behind, an object she comes to realize is a book—a marvelous item unheard of in her otherwise illiterate society. With the help of this book, and the aid of a mysterious stranger with dark secrets of his own, Sefia sets out to rescue her aunt and find out what really happened the day her father was killed—and punish the people responsible.

The Red Wolf Conspiracy

Robert V.S. Redick

Six hundred years old, the Imperial Merchant Ship Chathrand is a massive floating outpost of the Empire of Arqual. And it is on its most vital mission yet: to deliver a young woman whose marriage will seal the peace between Arqual and its mortal enemy, the Mzithrin Empire. But Thasha, the young noblewoman in question, may be bringing her swords to the altar.

For the ship’s true mission is not peace but war—a war that threatens to rekindle an ancient power long thought lost. As the Chathrand navigates treacherous waters, Thasha must seek unlikely allies—including a magic-cursed deckhand, a stowaway tribe of foot-high warriors, and a singularly heroic rat—and enter a treacherous web of intrigue to uncover the secret of the legendary Red Wolf.

The Chathrand is the last of her kind. Now, having survived countless battles and centuries of typhoons, it has gone missing. This is her story.


Have you read any of these? Do you plan to now?

Other recommendations? As always, leave a reply in the comments!

14 thoughts on “10 fantasy books that explore the oceans!

  1. Great theme! The Scar was a great addition to the list and since it’s the only one I’ve read, I’ve got some books to add to my “hurry up and read what I’m reading so I can read the other one I need to read so I can maybe read one that was just recommended” list. Grew up in the ocean and am always excited about sea creatures, or settings that are based on an ocean, fantasy, or SF.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Ooh I’m planning to pick up Ship of Magic as my next read, so excited to start this trilogy!
    I also really want to read The bone ships and The gentlemans bastard series!

    (www.evelynreads.com)

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I live far away from the ocean, so it’s a vacation topic for me. I loved this theme and give you another novella: The Deep which is located literally within the sea, featuring mermaids- my review’s here: https://reiszwolf.wordpress.com/2020/05/24/hugo-nebula-finalist-the-deep-%E2%80%A2-2019-%E2%80%A2-fantasy-novella-by-rivers-solomon

    Tim Power‘s novel is so long ago (I’ve read it in the 80s) that I remember it only vaguely. That calls for a reread.
    Scott Lynch and Robin Hobb were great!
    The Scar is on my tbr for a very long time.
    So, thanks again for this list. My tbr hates you 🤪😂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Haha I never apologise for TBRs! *Evil laugh* – I’ve just checked out The Deep – I knew there was a cover I’d seen recently that was in the sea and I was trying to think for ages and couldn’t find it – that’s the one! Thankyou!!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I didn’t know Pirates of the Caribbean was inspired by a book! Fancy that! I hope the author of On Stranger Tides gets more than his fair share of the profits 🧐 Nice collection of books there Alex, great post, thanks for sharing 😀

    Liked by 1 person

  5. That’s one great selection of choice books, and what a neat themed idea too, featuring the ocean. Who would have thought so much fantasy was set on the sea. Love it! And I found a few next reads here too, which is a great bonus. Thanks, Alex.

    Liked by 1 person

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