6 Fantasy and Sci-Fi Novellas to Add to Your TBR

Fantasy and sci-fi novellas

Although the fantasy and science-fiction genres are well known for long tomes and series that encompass multiple volumes of magic and adventure, sometimes readers desire shorter narratives. Packing adequate world building, well-developed characters, and a plot full of quests and battles into 40,000 words or less is a feat not many writers endeavor to undertake. However, there are still several excellent fantasy and sci-fi novellas you can enjoy if you’re looking for a shorter read that includes all your favorite speculative elements.

Here are some of my favorite shortform works of fantasy and science-fiction.

1. A Psalm for the Wild-Built

A Psalm for the Wild-Built by Becky Chambers

Becky Chambers’ solar-punk novella A Psalm for the Wild-Built follows Sibling Dex, a tea monk looking for renewed purpose and meaning in their life. During their travels, they encounter a robot called Splendid Speckled Mosscap who has ventured out of the wilds to learn what humanity has been up to since people and robots parted ways hundreds of years ago.

The book and its sequel, A Prayer for the Crown-Shy, have gained popularity due to their hopeful outlook and thoughtful exploration of what makes humans, human.

2. Silver in the Wood

In this retelling of the Green Man myth, Emily Tesh puts her own spin on the tale of the mysterious forest guardian. This novella traces the beginnings of a romance between Tobias Finch, the immortal forest guardian, and a young scholar named Henry Silver. As their relationship grows, Tobias has to reckon with his complicated past.

The sequel, Drowned Country, takes places two years after Silver in the Wood as Tobias and Henry attempt to rekindle their relationship.

Silver in the Wood by Emily Tesh

3. The Empress of Salt and Fortune

The Empress of Salt and Fortune by Nghi Vo

The Hugo Award-winning first book in the Singing Hills Cycle tells the story of Empress In-yo. Following her death, Cleric Chih travels to the palace of Thriving Fortune to speak with the former Empress’s servant, an elderly woman called Rabbit.

In this series by Nigh Vo, Cleric Chih collects and shares stories across the empire, exploring the lives of various characters they meet while facing myriad perils during their travels.

There are currently four novellas in the series, and a fifth has been announced for release in 2024.

4. All Systems Red

The first installment in Martha Wells’ Murderbot Diaries series tells the story of the titular security unit, a cyborg that has overridden its governor unit and gained independence. The self-named Murderbot begins to develop a human-like personality, interests, and feelings while protecting a group of human scientists from dangers on a foreign planet.

The complete series includes seven books—five novellas and two novels.

All Systems Red by Martha Wells

5. This Is How You Lose the Time War

This Is How You Lose the Time War by Amal El-Mohtar and Max Gladstone

In this epistolatory novella by Amal El-Mohtar and Max Gladstone, two time-traveling special agents slowly begin to fall for one another while thwarting each other’s efforts to manipulate history to further their organizations’ agendas.

The story unfolds through the secret notes the characters, Red and Blue, leave for each other at the sites of their missions. Lyrical and mind-bending, this book is notoriously captivating.

6. The Deep

Rivers Solomon’s The Deep follows Yetu, who acts as the Historian, or memory-keeper, of the wajinru people, a society of merfolk born of pregnant slaves thrown overboard into the Atlantic.

Overwhelmed by the burden of her people’s history and the isolation of being the sole keeper of this knowledge, Yetu flees her responsibilities. She spends time at the surface with a human named Oori and learns about human society. Ultimately, she had to decide whether to return to her people and take up her burden once again, or leave them and accept the consequences of abandoning her role.

The Deep by Rivers Solomon


Talented science-fiction and fantasy authors produce wonderful novellas that can provide all the elements you love about these genres without the time commitment of a series of thousand-page novels. In some ways, the limitations of the form force writers to create vivid worlds and characters using highly refined world-building techniques and character development.

If you liked these books, you might also be interested in my list of LGBTQ+ book recommendations.

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Featured Image Credit: Unsplash.

Molly Tyler

Molly received her B.A. in English in 2016, and her M.F.A. in Creative Writing in 2019. She now works full time as a digital content marketer.

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