Recommended young adult fantasy books

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.

Recommended Reading

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...

The Dark is Rising Sequence by Susan Cooper
The Dark is Rising Sequence cover image Amazon.co.uk logo Amazon.com logo

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

The Secrets of Drearcliff Grange School by Kim Newman
The Secrets of Drearcliff Grange School cover image Amazon.co.uk logo Amazon.com logo

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."

Daughter of Smoke and Bone Trilogy by Laini Taylor
Daughter of Smoke and Bone Trilogy cover image Amazon.co.uk logo Amazon.com logo

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

The Abhorsen Chronicles by Garth Nix
The Abhorsen Chronicles cover image Amazon.co.uk logo Amazon.com logo

"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

“Sabriel is a winner, a fantasy that reads like realism. I congratulate Garth Nix.” Philip Pullman

“Fast pace, drama, vivid descriptions, excitement and humour… What more could you want?” The Guardian

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.

The Chrestomanci Series by Diana Wynne Jones
The Chrestomanci Series cover image Amazon.co.uk logo Amazon.com logo

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.

Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
Hunger Games cover image Amazon.co.uk logo Amazon.com logo

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

Harry Potter: The Character Vault by Jody Revenson
Harry Potter: The Character Vault cover image Amazon.co.uk logo Amazon.com logo

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."

The Sudden Appearance of Hope by Claire North
The Sudden Appearance of Hope cover image Amazon.co.uk logo Amazon.com logo

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."

The Maze Runner by James Dashner
The Maze Runner cover image Amazon.co.uk logo Amazon.com logo

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

A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine LEngle
A Wrinkle in Time cover image Amazon.co.uk logo Amazon.com logo

When Charles Wallace Murry goes searching through a 'wrinkle in time' for his lost father, he finds himself on an evil planet where all life is enslaved by a huge pulsating brain known as 'It'. How Charles, his sister Meg and friend Calvin find and free his father makes this a very special and exciting mixture of fantasy and science fiction, which all the way through is dominated by the funny and mysterious trio of guardian angels known as Mrs Whatsit, Mrs Who and Mrs Which.

Mortal Instruments by Cassandra Clare
Mortal Instruments cover image Amazon.co.uk logo Amazon.com logo

Sixteen-year-old Clary Fray is an ordinary teenager, who likes hanging out in Brooklyn with her friends. But everything changes the night she witnesses a murder, committed by a group of teens armed with medieval weaponry. The murderous group are Shadowhunters, secret warriors dedicated to driving demons out of this dimension and back into their own. Drawn inexorably into a terrifying world, Clary slowly begins to learn the truth about her family - and the battle for the fate of the world.

"I found a great pleasure in City of Bones, Cassandra Clare managed to hit the right snares to introduce a new series, showing a interesting world and likable characters, and a plot that can go any which way." Jasper de Joode, Fantasy Book Review

The Study Trilogy by Maria V Snyder
The Study Trilogy cover image Amazon.co.uk logo Amazon.com logo

Choose: A quick death...or a slow poison...About to be executed for murder, Yelena is offered an extraordinary reprieve. She'll eat the best meals, have rooms in the palace - and risk assassination by anyone trying to kill the Commander of Ixia. And so Yelena chooses to become a food taster. But the chief of security, leaving nothing to chance, deliberately feeds her Butterfly's Dust - and only by appearing for her daily antidote will she delay an agonising death from the poison. As Yelena tries to escape her new dilemma, disasters keep mounting. Rebels plot to seize Ixia and Yelena develops magical powers she can't control. Her life is threatened again and choices must be made. But this time the outcomes aren't so clear...

The Vampire Academy Series by Richelle Mead
The Vampire Academy Series cover image Amazon.co.uk logo Amazon.com logo

After being on the run for two years Rose and Lissa have been found and are dragged (literally) back into the iron gates of St Vladimir's Academy. Rose and Lissa soon learn that being on the run was a lot simpler than hiding secrets and safer than living with-in reach of the unknown enemy. With no escape they both have to learn to deal with it which is no simple feat with Rose’s quick temper and sharp tongue. Then the real test begins, Lissa is in serious trouble and Rose is caught in a spell of lust. Will she break it in time to save her one true friend, Princess Lissa?

"Vampire Academy is the first in a series and gives you fantastic foundations for a new twist in the world of vampires. At times I wanted to join Rose in her battles and she had me laughing at her quick-witted nature. Likewise with Lissa’s kind nature she made my heart warm and at times I really felt for her in the battles of social climbs and trials of love. I felt I could relate with both characters at different times and would recommend this book. I have read it many times each time as enjoyable as the last. Would be suitable for older teenagers and young adults (and of course even me at 32!)." Ginny Skeels, Fantasy Book Review

Seven Kingdoms Trilogy by Kristin Cashore
Seven Kingdoms Trilogy cover image Amazon.co.uk logo Amazon.com logo

In a world where people born with an exceptional skill, known as a Grace, are feared and exploited, Katsa carries the burden of a skill even she despises: the Grace of killing. She lives under the command of her Uncle Randa, King of the Middluns, and is expected to carry out his dirty work, punnishing and torturing anyone who displeases him. Breaking arms and cutting off fingers are her stock-in-trade. Finding life under his rule increasingly unbearable Katsa forms an underground Council, whose purpose is to combat the destructive behavior of the seven kings - after all, the Middluns is only one of the seven kingdoms, and each of them is ruled its own king with his own personal agenda for power. When the Council hears that the King of Liend's father has been kidnapped Katsa investigates . . . and stumbles across a mystery. Who would want to kidnap him, and why? And who was the extraordinary Graced fighter who challenged her fighting skills, for the first time, as she and the Council rushed the old man to saftey? Something dark and deadly is rising in the north and creeping across the continent, and behind it all lurks the shadowy figure of a one eyed king...

"There is something truly refreshing about reading Cashore’s work. It is not as well executed as a Rothfuss or Erikson, but has more vigour and life to it as a result. The lives of the characters are fraught with emotion and peril and draw you in so that you are soon running alongside Bitterblue as she runs to make it home before the sun clears the horizon." Fantasy Book Review

Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo
Shadow and Bone cover image Amazon.co.uk logo Amazon.com logo

Lonely orphan Alina discovers a power that could be the key to saving her kingdom. But can she trust the seductive, powerful Darkling? And what about Mal, the childhood best friend she can't quite forget? Irresistible. Epic. This is glorious sweeping fantasy and the romance to end all romances.

"Told in the first person from Alina’s point of view, Shadow and Bone is a rich fantasy world with an interesting cast of supporting characters and it never wallows too deeply in teenage angst. I think it maintains a good balance between action and world building and look forward to reading the sequel." Cat Fitzpatrick, Fantasy Book Review

Latest reviews

Recommended reads by sub-genre

Select a sub-genre below to see which books we highly recommend.

High fantasy books
High fantasy

Fantasy set in an alternative, fictional world
Epic fantasy books
Epic fantasy

Fantasy with epic characters, themes, and plot
Heroic / Sword and Sorcery fantasy books
Heroic / Sword and Sorcery

Fantasy with heroic adventures
Contemporary / Urban fantasy books
Urban fantasy

Fantasy narrative with an urban setting
Historical fiction / Alternate history books
Historical fantasy / fiction

Historical fiction with fantasy elements
Parallel worlds.
Parallel universe

Fantasy set in parallel worlds
Science fantasy / Speculative fiction books
Science / Speculative

Draws elements from both science fiction and fantasy
Children's fantasy books
Children's Fantasy

Fantasy for ages up to 12
Young adult fantasy books
Young Adult

Fantasy for ages 12+
Adult fantasy books
Adult Fantasy

Fantasy for ages 18+
Dystopian fiction
Dystopian / Post-Apocalyptic

Fiction set in dark, nightmarish worlds
Image derived from Mark Lawrence's Emperor of Thorns book cover
Monarchy / Empire

Fantasy books with empires at their core
Gothic fiction books
Gothic Fiction

Fiction with elements of fear, horror, death, gloom and romance
Vampire fiction
Vampire Fiction

Fiction with vampiric characters
Werewolf fiction
Werewolf Fiction

Fiction with werewolf characters
Steampunk books
Steampunk

Fiction with steam-powered machinery rather than advanced technology
Dragon fiction
Dragon Fiction

Fiction with the legendary, scaled, fire-breathing creatures
Fantasy books featuring dragons
Wizards / Magicians

Fantasy with wizards, witches, magicians, sorceresses...
Lore, Legend and Mythology
Lore, Legend and Mythology

Inspired by ancient folklore and mythology
Fantasy books featuring dragons
Military Fantasy

Fantasy books focusing on mailtary life
Praetorian cover image
Roman historical fiction

Explore the ancient Roman Empire
An image of Darth Bane, taken from the cover of a Star Wars book
Star Wars

Books exploring the galaxy of the ever-popular franchise
An image taken from the front cover of The Wind in the Willows
Animal fantasy books

Fantasy with sentient animals
An image taken from the front cover of Giant Thief.
The Thief / Assassin

Fantasy books starring the thief or the assassin
An image taken from the front of hush, hush.
Supernatural

Fiction exploring beyond the laws of nature
An image portraying manga art.
Manga

Japanese comic books and graphic novels
House of Small Shadows
Horror

Liked to be scared? These books will do that...
An image portraying comic fantasy.
Comic Fantasy

For the reader who loves to laugh
An image of J. R. R. Tolkien
Inspired by Tolkien

Love Lord of the Rings? Now try these...
The Time Traveller's Almanac
Anthologies

The best science fiction and fantasy anthlogies