I’m a recent convert to the world of manhwa and light novels. Light novels are great for late-night binging when you’re itching for a fantasy kick but don’t want to watch an anime or pick up a heavy fantasy epic. They’re just top-tier fun.
And there is such a huge variety to choose from. You can search up any topic, and likely a light novel based around the concept will exist. Or maybe there is a trope that you don’t like, i.e., harem. Well, there are tons of good fantasy romance light novels that don’t have a harem aspect.
Light novels gained popularity in countries like China and Korea and have massively boomed outside as well. Translations are easier to come across, thanks to the digitization of both manhua/manhwa and web novels. In fact, there are plenty of famous webcomics that had their origins in light novels.
You have a ton of genres covered in light novels, but the predominant remains a fantasy. And you see it takes two shapes, like Japanese manga with the Shojo/Shonen concepts. You have fantasy classics with huge worldbuilding that are heavy on the action and fighting. Or do you have fantasies similar to Otome games, more focused on romance, love triangles, and maybe politics?
Whatever suits your taste, you can find a light novel tailored to it. Light novels are just a fun pastime, and you’ll find yourself invested easily. And if you’re ready to start on a journey into this wondrous world, here are our top picks for fantasy light novels you can not miss!
1. A Record of a Mortal’s Journey to Immortality
A popular Chinese Xianxia web novel by author Wang Yu, A Record of a Mortal’s Journey to Immortality is the story of Han Li, a destitute village child who ends up joining a minor sect in Jiang Hu. By sheer chance, he gains the title of an Unofficial Disciple by chance
It is up to Han Li, to make a place for himself in the sect, despite his humble birth. With his average abilities, he will have to weave through the maze that is cultivation, the road to immortality as a mortal. Not to mention the dangers he’ll have to face, picking and choosing to fight or flee.
This novel portrays the road to cultivation in a different manner, compared to others. And so, Han Li’s struggle toward immortality doesn’t come off as insincere. If you like serious male leads that aren’t insufferable, this will be a welcome respite.
2. Second Coming of Gluttony
This is a redemption story for the ages. The Second Coming Of Gluttony is a fantasy web novel by Ro Yu-Jin that is highly rated in the Korean novel circle.
We follow Seol Ji-Hu, a gambling addict who lives and dies a miserable existence. But he is resurrected in Lost Paradise, with full knowledge of his past life and where his hedonism and greed led him to. This makes him have a change of heart and he resolves to live his life in a way that he can avoid his past fate. Seol uses his old memories as intuition to create a new path for himself while dealing with the repercussions of having lived two lives. He ends up reawakening ‘Nine Eyes’, an ill-fated ability that was his rise to fame and subsequent trigger for his fall.
Seol starts off very naïve, which is a refreshing departure from the usually calculated protagonists. It leads to more believable character development, progressing the story onwards. Albeit a rough start, this story is a second chance trope rooted in realism that deserves a read.
3. Remarried Empress
This was actually my very first web novel, so I have a special fondness for it! Remarried Empress is a beautiful tale about romance, political discourse, and….a handsome prince that can turn into a bird?
Empress Navier Ellie Trovi experiences betrayal at its worst when her husband, Sovieshu takes in a mistress named Rashta and demands a divorce. Navier agrees, knowing she shouldn’t waste more time with a lost cause, and steps down as Empress. Of course, at the divorce ceremony, she subsequently announces her betrothal to King Heinley of the neighboring kingdom. She anticipated and planned accordingly with Heinley, who was enamored by her. This shock causes an uproar amongst the court and so, the disgraced empress becomes queen.
A redemption story with a twist, the regal Navier is the heroine whereas the poor Rashta is the manipulative intruder. This role reversal is very fun, with every character having their own ulterior motives instead of being black or white. If you enjoy slow burns, I can’t recommend this enough.
4. KonoSuba: God’s Blessing on This Wonderful World!
I’m sure you’ve heard of Konosuba before, but the light novel is comedic gold.
Enter Kazuma Sato, a teenage shut-in who winds up dead while attempting to save someone. Stuck in limbo, he is offered a choice by the Goddess Aqua: Help fend off a demonic invasion alongside one wish granted or die a miserable existence in his world. As he mulls over his options, Aqua mocks his despair.
Upset, Kazuma wishes for Aqua to be stuck with him in this new world and discovers that she is useless outside of performing basic party tricks. Add on new recruits Megumin, a psychopathic mage who loves explosions, and Darkness, the masochistic paladin, and you have one of the funniest series to ever debut in recent years.
5. SSS-Class Suicide Hunter
Another novel where the male lead goes from insufferable to enjoyable, SSS-Class Suicide Hunter is a time travel-fantasy epic that pushes the envelope.
Kim Gong-Ja is a weak Hunter and orphan from Korea. He would readily admire top hunters that would raid the Tower, a fantastical structure filled with mystery. But slowly, that awe turns to envy when he remains stuck on the lower levels with no S rank skill. By some miracle, his prayers are answered when the Tower suddenly presents him with an S-Rank skill known as I Want To Be Just Like You; an ability that lets you copy other hunters’ skills but only upon being murdered by them.
That quickly comes into play when Soo-Ha, the best hunter, murders another in front of Gong-Ja and decides to kill him too. Gong-Ja gains Soo-Ha’s Returner’s Clockwork Watch skill; where he can reset the world. Furious at Soo-Ha’s butchering ways, Gong-Ja decides to go back in time so he can stop Soo-Ha at the very beginning.
The arc for the protagonist here is what makes this story. We see this insufferable character become someone who would readily take the world on his shoulders. If you enjoy good character growth, I can’t recommend this enough!
6. I Shall Seal The Heavens
Highly regarded as one of the best novels out there, I Shall Seal the Heavens is an action-adventure fantasy by author Liu Yong.
It is the story of ambitious Meng Hao, a young scholar who gets kidnapped and is forced to integrate into a sect of immoral ‘cultivators’ – beings that harness spiritual energy in a drive towards greater power and immortality. In this world, it is the strongest that reign upon and feast on the weak. Meng Hao must quickly learn to adapt to survive in this cruel reality. He realizes the only way to do so is to become as powerful as he possibly can, in the shortest amount of time possible. And there is no room for error.
One of the most talked-about points when it comes to this novel is the morality of the characters. Spiritualism aside, everyone here is susceptible to corruption, even the protagonist. Filled with comedy, dramatic fights, and oddly accurate descriptions of Chinese medicine, I Shall Seal the Heavens is a beloved novel for most Xianxia enthusiasts.
7. Log Horizon
While Sword Art Online was responsible for kicking off the Isekai fanaticism of the 2010s, many folks begrudged the series for not making full use of the video game settings it’s known for. They would complain that it felt less like it took place in an MMORPG and settled for being a traditional fantasy. This is where Log Horizon comes in.
On the eve of the release of the popular MMORPG Elder Tale’s twelfth expansion, several thousand players globally find themselves transported into the game’s world, taking on the appearance of their in-game characters. However here, death isn’t the end for those stranded as they find themselves resurrected automatically should they meet their end. This realization causes apathy to fester within the players, with some going as far as to kill others simply for the fun of it because, really, who would call them out on it? And so, we find our protagonist Shiroe establishing the Log Horizon guild with Naogutsu and Akatsuki, his old teammates. They attempt to create order amidst the chaos and help their fellow players gain their foresight back, breaking the shackles of despair.
Despite being a moral heavy story, it never comes off as preachy or takes itself too seriously. And the fantastical elements blend in well. Long Horizon is a solid read.
8. Under the Oak Tree
Under The Oak Tree is one of the most popular fantasy manhwas out right now and for good reason. The magical elements aside, the romance here is so cute!
Maximilian Croix is our stuttering heroine, who lives a miserable life under the thumb of her abusive father, Duke Croix. He marries her off to Riftan Calypse, a lowly knight, and Maximilian thinks she might’ve escaped her bad fate. But he is forced to leave her after a cold meeting on their wedding night, no less, and she despairs her cruel fate. However, Riftan returns a changed man after 3 years, and so, Maximilian decides to take charge of her own destiny.
A lot of this story’s appeal is the vulnerable but strong-willed female lead with a speech disability. The stuttering isn’t what makes her weak, it is a part of her character. And the character development from there is impeccable. This novel is great for romance-fantasy enthusiasts.
9. The Beginning After The End
The Beginning After The End is a fantasy-action epic by TurtleMe that has grown in popularity thanks to its detailed story about self-discovery and second chances.
It stars Arthur Leywin, a regular kid that starts recalling memories of when he lived as the great King Grey. King Grey was a paragon of strength and prestige, holding great power in his hands. But after the glamor of the night died away, it would leave a hollowed shell of a human with no ambition or drive left. So, when he is assassinated, it is a lonely affair.
But then he opens his eyes, and he is Arthur, a young boy with a family in Dicathen, a foreign province. King Grey realizes this resurrection for what it is; a second chance. He can finally live his life differently as Arthur, surrounded by love and caring bonds. Arthur is King Grey’s redemption journey.
This story is heartwarming. The idea of a lonely god-like being that enters mortality and experiences human experiences is an interesting concept, and it’s executed well here. Unfortunately, the happiness remains short-lived even in this life.
10. Fate/Strange Fake
Fate/Strange Fake continues the tradition of spin-off titles in the Fate series being far more interesting than their mainline counterparts.
The story revolves around the Snowfield Holy Grail War, a battle royale between thirteen Servants. These Servants are beings plucked straight out from the collective history and mythology of humanity, only answerable to the respective Masters that summoned them. It also tends to incorporate elements from other titles present in the setting, such as the vampiric Dead Apostles, which fans of the Fate/Zero anime and the Tsukihime visual novel might be more familiar with.
You don’t really need a lot of prior background on the Fate franchise to enjoy this. The novels themselves do a decent enough job catching up with newcomers to the franchise. And besides, do you really need that much context to see the likes of Jack the Ripper and one of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse throw down?
So, what’s your favorite light novel? Did it make the cut? Or if this is your first time learning about them, will you be picking one up? Let us know!