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Pairing Five Fantasy Worlds With the Perfect Soundtrack


Pairing Five Fantasy Worlds With the Perfect Soundtrack

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Pairing Five Fantasy Worlds With the Perfect Soundtrack


Published on May 16, 2023

Photo: Konstantin Dyadyun [via Unsplash]
Photo: Konstantin Dyadyun [via Unsplash]

I’ve often wished life had background music. The universe couldn’t give me that, so it gave me the next best thing: fantasy music and ambience playlists on YouTube.

While there’s nothing like picking up a good book to get lost in an interesting world, there’s work to be done. You can’t read and work at once. But you can put on a “Magic Library – Fantasy Music For Inspiration” playlist in the background and pretend you’re a scholar investigating some arcane magic system rather than a college student completing a boring assignment.

But of course, you don’t have to be work on something to enjoy curated soundscapes. You could play Dungeons & Dragons (or any number of other games) to this music—or pick up an immersive fantasy series, made even more realistic by the background soundscape. Here are some music and ambience playlists for five of my favorite fantasy stories.


Northern Lights by Philip Pullman

The first book of Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy, Northern Lights (published as The Golden Compass in North America) takes us from an alternate Oxford to the North Pole as we accompany young Lyra and her dæmon Pantalaimon on a mission to rescue their missing friend Roger from the sinister Gobblers, who have much nastier aims than simply kidnapping kids.

I’d been meaning to read this book for months but didn’t pick it up until the height of winter—I like my books to match the weather outside. We don’t get snow here in New Delhi, let alone any fantastic phenomena like the aurora borealis. But that was pretty easy to forget once I started reading the novel, accompanied by this “Cold/Arctic: Ambiences” playlist produced by Michael Ghelfi Studios. If you prefer music that takes you to a world that’s not quite our own, I recommend this winter music playlist by Blue Turtle.


Lockwood & Co. series by Jonathan Stroud

One of my favorite fantasy series of all time, Lockwood & Co. is the story of a world where the dead have been returning as ghosts every night—ghosts that are very, very deadly and can be perceived only by kids and teenagers. Instead of joining the big companies that specialize in ghost-hunting, Anthony Lockwood runs his own amateur agency with his associates Lucy Carlyle and George Cubbins. As teenagers are wont to do (especially charming, cocky teens like Lockwood), they get into all sorts of trouble, finding themselves in precarious situations that are a perfect balance of funny and frightening—and at times, strike a deeply empathetic note too.

Now that the series has been (excellently) adapted by Netflix, we have a soundtrack for the show that you can listen to while reading the books. However, the first season of the show covers only the first two novels (and sadly, it was just announced that there will not be a second season) so there are plenty of other locations for which we don’t have official music. I recommend the following:


The Memoirs of Lady Trent by Marie Brennan

If you haven’t already read this fantastic series following the in-world memoirs of a top dragon naturalist, then consider listening to the audiobooks, narrated by Kate Reading (who has also narrated, with husband Michael Kramer, the Stormlight Archive audiobooks). With Reading’s narration, it’s easy to forget you’re listening to an audiobook. Instead, it feels like you’re hearing Isabella, Lady Trent describe how she grew to love dragons so much that she was willing to go to some very ridiculous and dangerous (and ridiculously dangerous) lengths to study them—and somehow made it out alive.

But if audiobooks aren’t your thing, there’s still a lot you could listen to while reading the books. For starters, there’s the music that Brennan played in the background while writing each of the five books in the series. (You can also find the soundtracks for her other books at the link). And here are some recommendations for setting-specific ambiences:


The Tea Dragon Society by Kay O’Neill (sometimes credited as Katie or K. O’Neill)

The Tea Dragon books are one of my favorite comfort reads, set in a gentle world where people take care of the titular tea dragons and enjoy cute little tea parties in colorful town squares and enviably pretty cottages. You can’t read the books and not have an urge to immediately go on a picnic and frolic in a park.

But if that’s not an option, you can instead make yourself a cup of tea while playing “Tea Party ASMR Ambience” in the background. There’s also “Enchanting Fairy Cottage in the Middle of the Forest.” If you prefer lofi, check out “follow your heart,” a Studio Ghibli-inspired mix by the Jazz Hop Café.


Brandon Sanderson’s Cosmere Novels

There are so many music and ambience playlists I could recommend for Sanderson’s books, which I had to include because it was the worldbuilding in the Shallan and Jasnah chapters in The Way of Kings that inspired me to want to make my college life in lockdown more tolerable.

For the Stormlight Archive books, there’s the official Kaladin Soundtrack by the Black Piper, which covers The Way of Kings, if you prefer music. For ambience, I can’t recommend Michael Ghelfi Studios enough. Many people use the music and ambience playlists on this channel for tabletop RPGs, but I’ve found them excellent for studying, writing, and reading. At this point, Ghelfi’s made so many specific ambiences that you won’t have a hard time finding a “Medieval Harbour” ambience that will remind you of Kharbranth’s ports, a “Rooftops of the City” or an “Evening in the City” ambience to help you follow Vin and Kelsier as they sneak across Luthadel at night, or a “Steam Train” ambience to bring to life Wax and Wayne’s chase of the Vanishers. Think of almost any location from Sanderson’s Cosmere books and you’ll probably find an ambience to match it.



In fact, if you dig deep enough, you’ll find something to match your real life too, and then reality might finally be as interesting as fantasy…

Ratika Deshpande, Order of Truthwatchers, aspiring Keeper, is a freelance writer based in New Delhi, India. You can find her writing on books, writing, and other nerdy miscellany on her website.

About the Author

Ratika Deshpande


Ratika Deshpande (she/her), Order of Truthwatchers, is currently writing a series of essays at on the art and craft of writing, one blog post at a time.
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