top ten tuesday

Top Ten Tuesday: Books With Excellent Worldbuilding

Top Ten Tuesday was created by The Broke and the Bookish in June of 2010 and was moved to That Artsy Reader Girl in January of 2018. It was born of a love of lists, a love of books, and a desire to bring bookish friends together.

Hello friends! It’s officially August and over halfway through the year. How has time flown by so fast already? Sometimes a month can feel like a blink of the eye.

I’m currently sleep deprived after an extra long but fun weekend so this post will be kept a little shorter – which may very well not be all that short, if you know me. Originally, this week’s TTT was about places I’d love to visit in books, but I feel I have already touched upon most of the places I would LOVE to live/visit in books in a previous TTT post.

So for this week, I chose to highlight some books I thought had excellent world building. To me, this means the world is described well enough that it can exist outside of the characters we follow in the stories. It is both imaginative and realistic in the way it is run.

Let me know if you agree with my choices in the comments below.

1. Lord of the Rings by J.R.R Tolkien

I just finished rewatching LOTR (the extended edition, of course) for the I-don’t-know-what-time. I love the world and the different groups that share Middle Earth together. To me, Tolkien is the bar that sets the goal for excellent worldbuilding and for that reason, he and this series is #1 on my list.

2. Shadow & Bone by Leigh Bardugo

Both the books and the Netflix series show just how expansive and complex the Grishaverse is that go far beyond any one singular character. I love how well Leigh uses the map of the world she’s created that go beyond one singular continent/region. With more than one companion series included, the ever growing universe and characters only add to the allure.

We’re definitely partial to the Crows here at Down the Rabbit Hole – stay tuned for a special new series we’re kick starting this week that’s related to the Crows!

3. The Mortal Instruments by Cassandra Clare

Likewise, Cassandra Clare’s initial trilogy has exploded into multiple series, both set in the present and in the historical past. The Shadowhunter universe and its associated lore practically has a life of its own. Sometimes, I almost feel like I could walk down the street in the middle of my city and imagine a rundown building could be a sanctuary for Shadowhunters.

4. The Witchlands series by Susan Dennard

Not too many fantasies in YA these days go beyond three or four books, but this series that continually builds on one another makes the lore and the land so fascinating. Getting to know the different characters in multiple POVs in each book really makes it less about a singular protagonist and more about the world at large as the focus. While this might not be everyone’s preference, it definitely enables excellent worldbuilding opportunities.

5. Divergent series by Veronica Roth

Probably the only non-fantasy book on this list, I picked the world of Divergent because of its ability to draw me into the dystopian setting. The rules of the world made sense for the dystopia it was, and I also appreciated the uniqueness of the Factions in how they operated with one another in role.

6. The Remnant Chronicles by Mary E. Pearson

With each book set in a different land of the overall world, it made it easier to learn so much of the history, cultures and ethnic groups that were present. Add in the companion series which provided more details that the original trilogy only alluded to, I honestly feel this is the way to go in fantasies that create worlds organically without overloading a reader with pages of information that seem completely irrelevant.

7. These Violent Delights series by Chloe Gong

Chloe has a way of writing that captivates you as the setting of each scene is laid. This form of excellent worldbuilding doesn’t have to be many books long but comes from transporting the reader into the space the author wants us to be. If read as audiobooks, it magnifies that feeling even more and so it definitely deserves to be on this list.

8. The Last Magician by Lisa Maxwell

Likewise, the setting in this series is super important and is established as an important part of the plot. Giving the time to properly expand on this has made this series that focuses on a magical past setting so much more real. My last impression from this book has always been more about the place than the characters alone and that showed me how well I was captivated by it all.

9. Caraval series by Stephanie Garber

As evidenced in the recent companion series, sometimes excellent worldbuilding comes from exploring further avenues that were initially side plots of the original stories. The imagination that goes into laying little pieces earlier that are then returned to at a later time confounds me. If done well (which it was in this case), it’s like transporting back to a beloved place that we missed.

10. Vampire Academy by Richelle Mead

And in this final case, the worldbuilding that I admire so much is the hierarchical relationships and systems of the vampires and humans. For any fantasy that lies within the world we intimately know ourselves, it’s less about the world in the sense of the lands but more about the interesting people that exist. I loved this so much from this series in particular and haven’t come across another that does it as well.

What do you think of these? How would you define excellent worldbuilding?

Thanks for stopping by!


13 thoughts on “Top Ten Tuesday: Books With Excellent Worldbuilding”

  1. I did a different topic as well. This is a great topic and you have such great picks! I think that Cassandra Clare’s world-building is just so good. I’m not sure if it’s because there are million books now or what. haha!

    My Top Ten!


  2. Great twist on the topic and list of books, Andge! I had TVD on my list today as well—such a vibrant and atmospheric setting. I also loved the world building in Caraval and can’t wait to re-read the first two books before finally finishing the series 😂


  3. Yes, the Grishaverse is excellently well built. I also like VE Schwab’s Shades of Magic series for world-building, I think the character and style of each London is described so well that you could definitely picture it if you could actually visualise things (I don’t picture things in my head whilst I read, so I can’t say I can picture myself there!). I’ve found the Witchlands world-building a little too confusing, there’s so much packed into those books that they can be a little hard to follow. I also really love Caraval, I think Stephanie Garber created such a great atmosphere for the game, and I look forward to reading Once Upon A Broken Heart.
    My TTT:


  4. Middle- earth is a place I would LOVE to visit. the world is SO well realized and awesome.

    I’m fascinated by the whole Factions thing in Divergent too. Is it weird I want to wander around Divergent- era Chicago and explore the different groups?? 🙂


  5. what a great topic Andge, I love good fantasy worldbuilding. I remember enjoying how it was explored in the first grishaverse book & that’s why its probably one of my favorites of all her books. I remember reading the first Truthwitch & actually being so confused 😭✨might revisit some of it before diving into the next ones because I love that it follows different characters + is a longer series. I love when the author builds on what they establish and explore as many details as possible that make the setting feel lived in & the magic more complex, if that makes sense? Wonderful post!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Omg I totally understand about Truthwitch being super confusing. Thankfully even on the author’s website she gives recaps of the earlier books I’m the series and that helps explain a bit of what’s going on that went over my head 😅 hopefully that’ll help if you decide to pick it up again

      Liked by 1 person

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