Who doesn’t like magic? Or, to frame it a bit differently, who doesn’t like escapism? The fantasy genre is fascinating but might sound equally intimidating when it comes to long series with complex characters, elements, and word-building. But there’s no going back once drawn into this arena of romance, Empire politics, and magic! I’ve tried to make this list a little less mainstream and as much diversity as possible.
Best Young Adult (YA) Fantasy Books!
So, consider the well-known Harry Potter series, Six of Crows duology, and ACOTAR series already included, along with some lesser-known but equally favored YA fantasy books which this list has to offer. You’ll find an assemblage of good YA standalone, well-received duologies and trilogies, and highly acclaimed series here. Pick any book that you want, and you won’t be disappointed.
1. Sacrifice by Oluyomi O’ Tuminu
Sacrifice by Oluyomi O’ Tuminu is a standalone young adult fantasy fiction about 12-year-old Taifen Kollay. In the pursuit of fulfilling a 100-year-old blood bargain, the Dark Lord Zacotan takes the life of Taifen’s mother, Maseray, and imprisons her in Volcanus, the hell of the dead. Taifen then embarks on the journey of seeking the ruler of the universe, Argoneo, a resident in the city of Sacred Mountain.
It is a story about the sacrifice that would be demanded of him to undo the ancient blood bargain and reclaim his mother’s life. Taifen’s love for his mother acts as a strong stimulus that drives the story forward. Above all, it is a perfect piece of literary delicacy for adventure and fantasy enthusiasts. The book offers profound knowledge about the different realms and dimensions which transcend life and death. The magic-infused dynamicity of the plot is fined tuned according to the literary taste of the youngsters. You can get the book here! 📖
2. The Grace of Wild Things by Heather Fawcett
Designed over the blueprint of Anne of Green Gables Heather Fawcett’s ‘The Grace of Wild Things’ features a 12-year-old Grace Greene, who is an undesirable orphan, but she is passionate about learning magic. Driven by her innate calling, she escapes the orphan in a quest to learn magic by becoming an apprentice of Miss Puddlestone, an abhorred witch. There Grace keeps her life at stake and offers a deal failing which she would lose her magic and much more.
Her passion, imagination, wit, and craving for familial bonding make this book all things brilliant. Despite being told in the spirit of a previously acclaimed story, the Lyrical prose of Fawcett has its own peculiarity to it. Though Grace is a reflection of Anne, the two are non-superimposable, and that’s where the magic of retelling works. This story is saturated with darker shades of colors, but I bet you don’t want to miss out on whatever Fawcett has to offer here! You can get the book here! 📖
3. The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern
The Night Circus is the debut novel of Erin Morgenstern. Le Cirque des Reves, or the Night Circus, is only accessible at night. It is a creation of Celia and Marco, the two young magician elects of the age-old rivals Hector Bowen and Mr. A.H. Celia and Marco are bound in a lifelong challenge by their masters where only one must win. But the ensuing love between them maneuvers the story in a different direction.
The Night Circus is a good place to step on the spell bounding and equally intimidating territory of fantasy literature. The book has earned its huge fanbase, not as much for the plot as for the mercurial clarity that it offers. It has an almost transparent quality to it, with lush, vivid scenes and lucid descriptions of performances. Amidst will, imagination, and passion for magic, the night circus provides the readers a place to revel in Morgenstern’s arena of magical rivalry and love. You can get the book here! 📖
4. The Magnolia Sword: A Ballad of Mulan by Sherry Thomas
‘The Magnolia Sword’ by Sherry Thomas is often deemed one of the Best Mulan retellings. Mulan has been trained with the sole objective of winning a duel that is bound to be fought by successive generations of her family. On winning the duel, she would reunite the two precious swords, sky blade, and heart sea. But the story takes a different turn when one soldier is called forth from every family to fight against the Rouran invaders.
Her attraction towards Kai and their teaming up for a common goal of avenging the invaders unfurls the story at a remarkable pace. Only writers like Sherry Thomas could be trusted to do a Mulan retelling with full justification for the original story. She writes with both clarity and restraint. Her sentences carry weight, and the battle descriptions are vivid and designed more like movie scenes. Her reflection of Mulan is thoughtful and evocative, which makes this book worth your time. You can get the book here! 📖
5. The Bone Houses by Emily Lloyd-Jones
‘The Bone Houses’ is a young adult horror fantasy novel by Emily Lloyd Jones. The protagonist of the story is a 17-year-old Ryn who earns her living as a gravedigger. An ancient curse that lurks in the streets of the village reanimates the corpses known as ‘bone houses’, which come to life and traumatize the villagers. The book offers a touch of romance between Ryn and Ellis, an apprentice mapmaker. Both decide to stop the bone houses, but their past seems to be entwined with the curse, and many troublesome truths are revealed as the story progresses.
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Though the threshold of horror varies from reader to reader, the book is universally hailed for its unique and imaginative literary flamboyance. The story is a fine thread that traverses the self-feeding circle of life and death. It’s almost as if the book provides a voice to the abstract world of the dead through the bone houses. The composition delivers a great deal of escapism, so do keep track of time if you decide to pick this one up! You can get the book here! 📖
6. Stain by A.G. Howard
Would you be intrigued if I told you that there exists a gothic version of the famous fable ‘The Princess and the Pea’ by Christian Andersen? There you have it! ‘Stain’ is yet another standalone by A.G. Howard is a melancholic, dark fairy-tale set in the Medieval world. Princess Lyra, who is rendered voiceless, disguises herself as a grimy boy named Stain when she meets the prince trapped inside an angry beast.
As if it wasn’t enough, the deceitful and manipulative Griselda acts as a catalyst in Lyra’s tragedy. Don’t expect it to be a light read because the story is imbued with suffering and hardships. However, Howard’s narrative is so wilfully unconventional, which makes this book a tempting read. Shards of various other previously loved princess stories like The Little Mermaid, Cinderella, and Beauty and the Beast could be found in this well-executed retelling. You can get the book here! 📖
7. The Wrath and the Dawn by Renée Ahdieh
‘The Wrath and The Dawn’ duology by Renée Ahdieh is written in the spirit of the famous ‘Arabian Nights’. It follows a teenage girl, Shahrzad, who volunteers to marry Khalid to avenge the death of her best friend and stop Khalid from killing a new wife each morning. The story takes a romantic turn when Shazi learns who Khalid really is. The second book in this duology is ‘The Rose and The Dagger’, which lacks a bit of world-building but offers an unexpected turn of events which makes it captivating.
In this, Shazi is seen sacrificing everything for those she loves. She is portrayed as a strong-willed, goal-oriented woman with a steel resolve. Renée’s writing style is an alpha player in this series. Her choice of words is fantastic, making the composition quite immersive. Character development is spontaneous, and subplots conglomerate to form the main plot. The author has provided every dimension to the story. It is interesting to read about the romance dynamics and politics and how they change across this duology. If you decide to read this one, you are in for a game of secrets, love, betrayal, struggle, and willpower. You can get the book here! 📖
8. Dance of Thieves by Mary E. Pearson
Mary E. Pearson’s duology of ‘Dance of Thieves’ and ‘Vow of Thieves’ is a perfectly crafted YA fantasy story. Jase succeeds to the throne of the Ballenger empire after the death of his father. Kazi, an orphan and a former street thief, is sent to the empire to investigate treaty violations and catch the traitor. Then ensues the chemistry between Jase and Kazi. The plot might sound like any other YA fantasy story, and to be honest, it’s a little challenging to get through the first 100 pages, but after that, the story just flows spontaneously. You will find yourself rooting with all your heart for Kazi and Jase to be together. Pick this one up if you want a less intense, perfectly crafted forefront romance. You can get the book here! 📖
9. The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
The Hunger Games series by Suzanne Collins is no less than a literary solitaire of young adult dystopian fiction. It is a trilogy starting from The Hunger Games, Catching Fire, and Mockingjay. Set in a futuristic backdrop, the dystopian world of Panem consists of a technologically advanced and affluent Capitol and 12 poverty-stricken and impoverished districts. ‘The Hunger Games’ is an annual event of a death match between ‘tributes’ that are randomly selected from the 12 minor districts. The protagonist, 17-year-old Katniss Everdeen, and Peeta Mellark, from the poorest 12th district, get chosen to compete in the 74th Hunger Games.
An act of defiance by Katniss in the first book leads to the second book in the series, in which rebellion from every district is highlighted. The third book deals with the 13th district of Panem. Recently, a prequel to the trilogy has been released titled ‘The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes’, which joins the last missing piece of the puzzle. Suzanne has dealt with sensitive themes of class discrimination and war with clarity. The character development is top-notch, and the overall concept is so intriguing that it has made serious readers out of non-readers and is ready to draw you in too! You can get the book here! 📖
10. The Gilded Wolves by Roshani Chokshi
The Gilded Wolves is a YA historical fantasy trilogy by Roshani Chokshi. It is recommended for experienced fantasy readers because the profound knowledge about histories, magical artifacts, and secret societies is sewn so wonderfully with so many elements that may overwhelm new readers. It is a heist story of the 1889 Paris exposition, whereupon the command of the elite society, The Order of Babel, Séverin, is elected to hunt an ancient magical artifact.
Séverin, in turn, selects a unique crew of members with a past of their own: a Spanish historian, a Jewish engineer, a dancer, and a botanist. The overall concept of magic is very intriguing and is based on the power of forging matter. In the second book, which is saturated with twists, the crew travels to Serbia, where new difficulties are unlocked, while the haunted waterways of Venice nearly knock their life out in the third. Nevertheless, the mission has to be completed!
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The story offers the individual point of view of the group members and is hard to follow at times. Despite being set in a historical backdrop, the use of technology doesn’t seem like a misfit. It is a thoroughly researched trilogy, and Roshani tried her best to give the readers a first-hand experience. She touches on sensitive topics of racial discrimination during the Exposition period. This book is one of its kind, with essential commentary strewn across the chapters, which is unlikely to be found in a fantasy book. Its wonderful compilation of diverse elements and the so many mythological references are a feast for readers. You can get the book here! 📖
11. An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir
This list would fall short in recommendations without the mention of the ‘An Ember in The Ashes’ series by Sabaa Tahir. It consists of four books in succession, starting from An Ember in The Ashes, A Torch Against the Night, A Reaper at The Gates, and A Sky Beyond the Storm. Set in a fictional world ruled by the brutal Martial Empire, Laia wants to free her brother from the clutches of the empire, while Elias hates being a part of its brutal rule.
Laia joins The Resistance and is deployed as a spy in the military academy, where she meets Elias. From then on begins, a game of revenge, love, treason, dominance, and change of power. Together they have to outwit the bloodthirsty emperor, a blood shrike, the ruthless warden of the prison, and many more dangerous elements scattered across the series.
The author never allowed the excitement to plummet down the successive books, which generally happens in book series. Tahir is a master of character-driven, fast-paced, dynamic narratives. Every element is perfectly balanced, and magic is not outweighing other themes. It is a good place to start reading the longer fantasy book series, as the reader would skim through this one in no time. You can get the book here! 📖
12. The Folk of the Air by Holly Black
The next recommendation is, of course, the ‘The Folk of The Air’ series by Holly Black. It includes three main books titled ‘The Cruel Prince’, ‘The Wicked King’, and ‘The Queen of Nothing’ while 3 companion novellas in the order ‘A Visit to the Impossible Lands’, ‘The Lost Sisters’ and ‘How the King of Elfhame Learned to Hate Stories?’ The protagonist Jude is a mortal; after the murder of her parents, she is forced into Elfhame, the dreaded Faerieland. She must survive among the dangerous faeries who abhor humans.
The plot picks up the pace when she develops a complex relationship with the cruel Faerie prince Carden Greenbriar. The subsequent books follow scandals, treachery, and how Jude finds out the workings of The King’s High Court. She is hell-bent on achieving a position of power in the Elfhame. Jude’s character is magnetic. She is resilient, and perseverance seems to be her strength. It might be a little hard to start with, but once 100 pages in the whole series would draw you in because Holly Black’s art of storytelling is flawless. You can get the book here! 📖
I hope you enjoyed reading this listicle with the best Young Adult (YA) fantasy books. You can let us know your favorite book(s) in the comments below as well. Happy reading!
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