Reclaim Your Lunch Break

10 grown-up fantasy novels to provide you with instant escapism

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These books are guaranteed to whisk you away to new worlds, even if it’s just for your lunch hour…

The very best thing about a good book is that it allows you to disconnect. And there’s no better way to de-stress and indulge than by transporting yourself to faraway planets or ancient lands. So switch off and escape during your lunch hour with one of these epic reads.

A Skinful Of Shadows by Frances Hardinge

Hardinge’s The Lie Tree won 2015’s Costa Book Of The Year and this spooky, magical follow-up even betters its predecessor. In 1600s England, poor, illegitimate Makepeace is abducted by her extended aristocratic family who are able to capture ghosts and absorb them into their minds. 

Soon, Makepeace becomes possessed, but can these ghosts help her break free?

Macmillan, RRP £12.99, buy it here

Mrs Osmond by John Banville

Modern writers reinventing the classics can sometimes leave a bitter taste, but Banville’s sequel to Henry James’ Victorian melodrama The Portrait Of A Lady is delicious. 

It helps that the ending of Portrait was ambiguous: did spirited Isabel Archer go back to her dastardly husband Gilbert Osmond, or leave him for dashing Caspar Goodwood? Enter Banville’s reimagined Belle Époque and find out…

Viking, RRP £14.99, buy it here

The Last Hours by Minette Walters

It’s 1348 and the Black Death is ravaging England. Strong and compassionate Lady Anne decides to quarantine her rural Dorset village, bringing everyone in the surrounding area under her castle’s walls. This saves the town but soon someone in their midst is murdered. 

This is former crime queen Walters’ first novel in a decade and her first foray into historical fiction, so it’s definitely worth a read.

Atlantic, RRP £20, buy it here

A Wrinkle In Time by Madeleine L’Engle

A big-budget Reese Witherspoon, Oprah Winfrey and Chris Pine film adaptation of this drops next year, so it’s the perfect time to discover this classic if you haven’t already. 

When her astrophysicist father goes missing after doing experiments for the government, Meg, her brother Charles and friend Calvin are sent by three mysterious creatures “across space and time” to bring him back. Easy to read, funny and completely transporting.

Puffin, RRP £6.99, buy it here

The Rules Of Magic by Alice Hoffman

The long-awaited prequel to Hoffman’s witchy Practical Magic (made into the Halloween favourite starring Sandra Bullock and Nicole Kidman). 

Set in Sixties New York and Salem, Massachusetts, we meet Franny and Jet (the aunts in Practical Magic) and their brother Vincent who are beset by the centuries-old family curse: whoever they fall in love with will die. Witchy fun for Nineties freaks abounds.

Simon & Schuster, RRP £16.99, buy it here

Provenance by Ann Leckie

Space operas – they’re a thing, all right? Leckie’s debut, Ancillary Justice, won every major sci-fi award in the known universe and her latest offering is in the same Imperial Radch setting. 

The story follows Ingray, a young woman whose plan to get the approval of her foster mother (it’s complicated) leads to a prison break, murder and an interplanetary political conspiracy. Thrilling, out-of-this world stuff.

Orbit, RRP £16.99, buy it here 

The Furthest Station by Ben Aaronovitch 

Aaronovitch’s PC Peter Grant series is kind of like Harry Potter with adults, if Hogwarts was Scotland Yard. 

The most recent instalment has Grant – England’s first apprentice wizard in almost 70 years –tracking down evil spirits who are haunting commuters on the London Underground, all with the help of British transport copper Jaget Kumar and a ghost-hunting dog. Perfect for a lunchtime wallow in some mystery and magic.

Gollancz, RRP £12.99, buy it here

The Last Namsara by Kristen Ciccarelli

Something to fill that Game of Thrones-sized hole in your life while you wait for HBO’s next season and/or George RR Martin to finally write the next instalment. Ciccarelli’s book centres on Asha, princess of Fingaard, chief dragon-slayer and “more weapon than girl”. 

Yet Asha is being forced to marry Fingaard’s sadistic commandant and longs to leave and rebel – and she may just take the commandant’s good-looking slave boy along with her…

Gollancz, RRP £10.99, buy it here

Good Omens by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman

If you’ve never read anything from either of these fantasy masters, this collaborative book is the one to start with. The son of Satan is born, threatening Armageddon, so a demon and an angel join forces to try and stop it. 

Problem is, a hospital mix-up at birth means the real Antichrist is a sweet-tempered boy from the idyllic village of Lower Tadfield, Oxfordshire. Funny and quirky in equal measure, this’ll cheer up the drabbest of workdays.

Transworld, RRP £8.99, buy it here

The Princess Bride by William Goldman

There has been a 30th anniversary cinema re-release this autumn of Rob Reiner’s beloved film, but Goldman’s original novel is just as good. Beautiful Princess Buttercup falls for farm boy Westley, but when he goes away to make his fortune, he’s captured by the Dread Pirate Roberts and she vows to never love again. 

Years later, Buttercup glumly accepts Prince Humperdinck’s wedding proposal. But wait – who is the mysterious man in black…?

Bloomsbury, RRP £8.99, buy it here

Main image: Anthony Tran