Recommended young adult fantasy books

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Young adult fantasy books are in the main, written for, published for, and marketed to readers between the ages of 12 and 18. For the purposes of this page we have decided to feature books that we believe are both aimed at the YA market and also feature a young adult as the main character. And so therefore coming-of-age also plays a large part in the books we have chosen. Many of the books will be familiar but we hope there are also a few surprises that allow you to discover some great new titles.

The Dark is Rising Sequence by Susan Cooper
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Cooper's highly acclaimed series--Over Sea, Under Stone; The Dark Is Rising; Greenwitch; The Grey King; and Silver on the Tree--is now available in its entirety for the first time in an attractive, sturdy boxed set that's perfect for gift giving

"Cooper is a natural storyteller, and all five novels grip the reader tightly, helped in this with copious amounts of mythology and spectacular prose. The prose of the second book in the series, The Dark is Rising, is some of the best I've read in its genre. The sequence is an absolute classic, and should be required reading for children between the ages of seven and fifteen. Those who are older who haven't read them yet are really missing out on something wonderful. Highly recommended." AT Ross, Fantasy Book Review

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Harry Potter by JK Rowling
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Harry Potter is an ordinary boy who lives in a cupboard under the stairs at his Aunt Petunia and Uncle Vernon's house, which he thinks is normal for someone like him who's parents have been killed in a 'car crash'. He is bullied by them and his fat, spoilt cousin Dudley, and lives a very unremarkable life with only the odd hiccup (like his hair growing back overnight!) to cause him much to think about. That is until an owl turns up with a letter addressed to Harry and all hell breaks loose! He is literally rescued by a world where nothing is as it seems and magic lessons are the order of the day. Read and find out how Harry discovers his true heritage at Hogwarts School of Wizardry and Witchcraft, the reason behind his parents mysterious death, who is out to kill him, and how he uncovers the most amazing secret of all time, the fabled Philosopher's Stone! All this and muggles too. Now, what are they?

"JK Rowling's tales of the boy wizard have become a phenomenon. The series has so far sold a staggering 400,000,000 copies worldwide and has been translated into over sixty-five different languages. There will always be debate over how good an author Rowling is but few can deny that she deserves the utmost acclaim for bringing the joy of reading to a new generation." Fantasy Book Review

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The Secrets of Drearcliff Grange School by Kim Newman
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When her mother finds her sleeping on the ceiling, Amy Thomsett is sent to Drearcliff Grange School in Somerset. Although it looks like a regular 1920s boarding school, Amy learns that Drearcliff girls are special, the daughters of criminal masterminds, outlaw scientists and master magicians. When one of the girls in her dormitory is abducted, Amy and her friends must form a secret, superpowered society called the Moth Club to rescue her.

"The book has a good tone within a self-contained world that has its own rhythm and rules. Kim Newman has written a fast paced story that is full of action and intrigue that makes the book hard to  put down. The characters are engaging as they continue to get into situations that they may not be able to handle when it is not just student versus student, but also children versus adults. This is not a book about sunshine and rainbows, this is a book that at times is very dark, which also has chilling moments throughout. At the same time, this is a really enjoyable read that has given me a new descriptive word of "Crumpets!" for when you need to exclaim. I can see myself re-reading this book time and again."

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Daughter of Smoke and Bone Trilogy by Laini Taylor
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Errand requiring immediate attention. Come. The note was on vellum, pierced by the talons of the almost-crow that delivered it. Karou read the message. 'He never says please', she sighed, but she gathered up her things. When Brimstone called, she always came. In general, Karou has managed to keep her two lives in balance. On the one hand, she's a seventeen-year-old art student in Prague; on the other, errand-girl to a monstrous creature who is the closest thing she has to family. Raised half in our world, half in 'Elsewhere', she has never understood Brimstone's dark work - buying teeth from hunters and murderers - nor how she came into his keeping. She is a secret even to herself, plagued by the sensation that she isn't whole. Now the doors to Elsewhere are closing, and Karou must choose between the safety of her human life and the dangers of a war-ravaged world that may hold the answers she has always sought.

"I have only praise for this series and for Days as well. It is written masterfully and filled with poetic lyricism that tricks you into believing you are reading a classic. The book is melancholy and the pain of the characters is etched into the pages that after you put the book down you find yourself hovering in dark corners, muttering to yourself about the cruelty of the world. But don’t let that put you off from reading what will become a classic in literature in the decades to come, for sure. I am eagerly awaiting book three. Mrs Taylor! Bring it on!" Fantasy Book Review

'Remarkable and beautifully written. The opening volume of a truly original trilogy.' The Guardian

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The Abhorsen Chronicles by Garth Nix
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Who will guard the living when the dead arise? Sabriel is sent as a child across the Wall to the safety of a school in Ancelstierre. Away from magic; away from the Dead. After receiving a cryptic message from her father, 18-year-old Sabriel leaves her ordinary school and returns across the Wall into the Old Kingdom. Fraught with peril and deadly trickery, her journey takes her to a world filled with parasitical spirits, Mordicants, and Shadow Hands – for her father is none other than The Abhorson. His task is to lay the disturbed dead back to rest. This obliges him – and now Sabriel, who has taken on her father's title and duties – to slip over the border into the icy river of Death, sometimes battling the evil forces that lurk there, waiting for an opportunity to escape into the realm of the living. Desperate to find her father, and grimly determined to help save the Old Kingdom from destruction by the horrible forces of the evil undead, Sabriel endures almost impossible challenges whilst discovering her own supernatural abilities – and her destiny.

"This may be the first book of yet another "cross-over" fantasy trilogy--theoretically equally appealing to both children and adult readers--but thankfully Sabriel has enough verve and panache about it to reach just such a wide readership and to ensure that author Garth Nix has created a bandwagon all of his own. Constantly rich and meaty, the story is intriguing from the off. Page by page the tension builds and draws you into a highly imaginative landscape that has familiarity and originality in equal measures." Fantasy Book Review

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Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
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Could you survive on your own, in the wild, with everyone out to make sure you don't live to see the morning? In the ruins of a place once known as North America lies the nation of Panem, a shining Capitol surrounded by 12 outlying districts. The Capitol is harsh and cruel and keeps the districts in line by forcing them all to send one boy and one girl between the ages of 12 and 18 to participate in the annual Hunger Games, a fight to the death on live TV. Sixteen-year-old Katniss Everdeen, who lives alone with her mother and younger sister, regards it as a death sentence when she steps forward to take her sister's place in the Games. But Katniss has been close to dead before - and survival, for her, is second nature. Without really meaning to, she becomes a contender. But if she is to win, she will have to start making choices that weigh survival against humanity and life against love.

"Collins is a fine writer worthy of her craft, and the book is compelling all the way through. I don't usually stay up late reading novels, but this time I did. It is a massive whirlwind of enjoyment and insight. It does not pull its punches, and for this reason The Hunger Games is also not free of controversy. Some religious groups have denounced the books as unacceptable for its presentation of violence and for the ever-present theme of looming death. Such readings are in fact misreadings, these groups having missed the obvious point of the series, which is that violence, while very real, is not a viable response. Katniss throughout the book avoids killing where she can, and only does so regretfully, in self-defense. The books are about how violence and vengeance destroys and lowers human life. Far from being a pro-violence or blood-letting message, the books end up being a strong anti-war tract by subverting the honor-warrior-noble-battle trope common in many stories today. Ultimately, the books are about self-sacrifice and the ability of love to overcome the might of totalitarianism, cruelty, and hatred. I do not believe I can recommend them highly enough." Fantasy Book Review

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Harry Potter: The Character Vault by Jody Revenson
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Unlock new information about your favourite characters from the Harry Potter movies with this definitive coffee table book profiling the good, the bad, and everything in between. Concept art, behind-the-scenes imagery, and film stills track everyone from Harry, Hermione and Ron to Dobby, Mad-Eye Moody and Dolores Umbridge, telling their complete stories as they evolve throughout the film series. The ultimate Harry Potter character overview.

"Harry Potter: The Character Vault is the sort of book every fan would want to own as it has never before seen photographs, sketches, outtakes and also an envelope at the end that contains something special for all the fans."

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The Chrestomanci Series by Diana Wynne Jones
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Every saga has a beginning. Every journey has a first step... And so it is with the magical Worlds of Chrestomanci which English fantasy author Diana Wynne Jones began so many years ago with her own episode one - Charmed Life. Winner of the Guardian Award for Children's Books, Charmed Life has been a favourite escape to parallel fantastical worlds since 1977, and remains refreshingly captivating and reassuringly addictive in its latest paperback edition with a wonderful new jacket illustration. The adventure begins in a strange and not-quite contemporary England that is still peppered with paddle steamers, horse-drawn carriages and girls wearing petticoats. Orphans Eric Chant (nicknamed Cat) and his sister Gwendolen, a gifted witch, are whisked away to live in a castle with Chrestromanci, a much-revered man of magic, wealth and mysterious ways. Their new life is full of the surreal and unexpected, and there are several crazy new rules to master--not least by Gwendolen who must learn to channel her astonishing powers for good instead of mischief as she forever seems determined to do! Chrestomanci is a truly original creation, and Charmed Life introduces this dandy nine-lived enchanter - the king of the regal dressing gown - and his associated colourful characters in a story of pace and substance, twists and turns, treachery and bravado. There's also humour amid the author's very immediate writing, and enough puzzles and mystery to keep an inquisitive mind captivated until the very end.

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The Sudden Appearance of Hope by Claire North
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My name is Hope Arden. I am the girl the world forgets. It started when I was sixteen years old. A father forgetting to drive me to school. A mother setting the table for three, not four. A friend who looks at me and sees a stranger. No matter what I do, the words I say, the crimes I commit - you will never remember who I am. That makes my life tricky. It also makes me dangerous...

"The Sudden Appearance of Hope is an excellent novel. It's not one that will entertain as much as her previous novels, but one that looks at complex themes with much more depth before providing a biased social commentary. For that reason I can't say that this book is for everyone, there is barely any escapism to be found here. This book will engage you with the prevalent social issues of today (mid-2016), making you pause and think about our pursuit of perfection as defined by Hollywood and the mainstream media."

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The Maze Runner by James Dashner
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When the doors of the lift crank open, the only thing Thomas remembers is his first name. But he's not alone. He's surrounded by boys who welcome him to the Glade - a walled encampment at the centre of a bizarre and terrible stone maze. Like Thomas, the Gladers don't know why or how they came to be there - or what's happened to the world outside. All they know is that every morning when the walls slide back, they will risk everything - even the Grievers, half-machine, half-animal horror that patrol its corridors, to try and find out.

"This is the first instalment of ‘The Maze Runner’ trilogy, which explores the themes of survival, identity, friendship, global warming and human intelligence. Although the novel is aimed at YA readers, full grown adults will enjoy the series too. It is fast paced and has plenty of action, so it’s impossible to get bored. Plot-wise, the book kept me guessing until the end. Is this an experiment? Are they human ‘lab rats’? Or are the group being punished, with the maze serving as some kind of prison? There are several plot twists within the book, and I have a feeling there will be more surprises in the following books. I don’t think the true answers will be fully revealed until the end of the last book." Ceimone Kercher, Fantasy Book Review

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Recommended reads by sub-genre

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Dawn of Wonder by Jonathan Renshaw book cover image
Spotlight: Dawn of Wonder by Jonathan Renshaw

Winner 2015 CIPA EVVY awards for Fiction/Fantasy
#1 Bestseller in Epic, Historical and Coming of Age Fantasy
When a high-ranking officer gallops into the quiet Mistyvales, he brings a warning that shakes the countryfolk to their roots...