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Step Aside, Shadowfax—6 Books Featuring Fantasy Steeds That Aren’t Horses

Sure, horses are majestic and noble beasts, but why limit yourself to four legs and hooves in fantasy when you could be riding anything from gigantic sandworms to man-eating hippos? Here are six titles that feature alternative steeds for riding into battle on, or just riding to work on.

By Yvonne Ye


Poster Placeholder of - 28Empire’s Ruin by Brian Staveley

The Annurian Empire—the setting for Staveley’s popular series The Chronicle of the Unhewn Throne—is back, and it’s disintegrating rapidly. After a disastrous mission gone terribly awry, Gwenna Sharpe must embark on a voyage beyond the edges of any maps in search for the ancient nesting grounds of the giant war hawks—massive, proud birds that can carry an entire Wing of highly skilled soldiers—the empire needs to survive.

Place holder  of - 89American Hippo by Sarah Gailey

 In the early 20th century, the U.S. Congress seriously entertained the proposition of importing hippos into the southern marshlands to be nurtured as an alternative meat source. Sarah Gailey follows that proposition to its logical conclusion: a hair-raising heist on hippo-back. Brutal, brilliant, bold, and brash, American Hippo follows Winslow Houndstooth and his crew of outlaws, con artists, assassins, and their hippo counterparts as they wreak absolute mayhem in the bayous of Louisiana—and take bloody revenge.

Image Place holder  of - 46The Red Threads of Fortune by Neon Yang

After the explosive ending of The Black Tides of Heaven, Sanao Mokoya—ex-prophet, trained Tensor, rebel, and daughter of the supreme Protector—now spends her days hunting sky-obscuring naga: great, lizard-like beasts that soar through the heavens on clawed wings of leather, whose jaws could slice a man in half. When she meets the mysterious yet enchanting Rider, who can take to the skies on the back of a naga, Mokoya must confront conspiracy and betrayal, buried secrets and deadly magic while navigating her own trauma and grief.

Placeholder of  -24Star Eater by Kerstin Hall

Come for the incisive deconstruction of power in a bloody sisterhood of matriarchal nuns; stay for the haqules, the giant, swift-footed, fork-tailed feline steeds that the high-ranking members of the sisterhood ride. Elfreda Raughn wants out of the Sisterhood of Aytrium, which offers her great power at a gruesome cost. Sometimes, that means riding giant cats while making one’s dramatic escape. Sometimes, that also means evading giant cats whilst making one’s dramatic escape, but such are the dangers of infiltrating and rebelling against a cannibalistic priestesshood.

Image Placeholder of - 62The Dinosaur Lords by Victor Milán

If you’ve ever looked at 14th century Europe and thought to yourself that it would be improved by the addition of dinosaurs, look no further. Mercenary and Dinosaur Lord Karyl Bogomirsky has been betrayed and left for dead, but he won’t let his story end there. Milán crafts a world full of dinosaurs as wildlife, as husbandry, as pets, and of course—as steeds of war.

Dune by Frank Herbert

When the House of Atreides accepts stewardship over the planet of Arrakis, young Paul Atreides is flung into a storm of interstellar intrigue and deadly competition. Arrakis is inhospitable, desolate, and covered primarily in harsh deserts; it is also the only source of melange, a rare and exclusive spice that can both extend life and heighten mental abilities. The catch? The spice is guarded by the giant sandworms of Arrakis, who are made of little more than teeth and territorial instinct. With an upcoming film this fall featuring a powerhouse cast of Oscar Isaac, Timothée Chalamet, and Zendaya, we’re looking forward to at least one scene where a character rides the famed sandworms.

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