Our top 10 young adult fantasy books/series
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.
Please find below the 10 young adult fantasy books we highly recommend.
- 1. The Lord of the Rings by JRR Tolkien
In ancient times the Rings of Power were crafted by the Elven-smiths, and Sauron, the Dark Lord, forged the One Ring, filling it with his own power so that he could rule all others. But the One Ring was taken from him, and though he sought it throughout Middle-earth still it remained lost to him. After many ages it fell, by chance, into the hands of the hobbit, Bilbo Baggins. From his fastness in the Dark Tower of Mordor, Sauron's power spread far and wide. He gathered all the Great Rings to him, but ever he searched far and wide for the One Ring that would complete his dominion. On his eleventy-first birthday, Bilbo disappeared, bequeathing to his young cousin, Frodo, the Ruling Ring, and a perilous quest: to journey across Middle-earth, deep into the shadow of the Dark Lord and destroy the Ring by casting it into the Cracks of Doom. The Lord of the Rings tells of the great quest undertaken by Frodo and the Fellowship of the Ring: Gandalf the wizard, Merry, Pippin and Sam, Gimli the Dwarf, Legolas the Elf, Boromir of Gondor, and a tall, mysterious stranger called Strider...
There's no salvation for a fantasy fan who hasn't read the gospel of the genre. The influence of The Lord of the Rings is so universal that everybody from George Lucas to Led Zeppelin has appropriated it for one purpose or another. Not just revolutionary because it was groundbreaking, The Lord of the Rings is timeless because it's the product of a truly top-shelf mind. Tolkien was a distinguished linguist and Oxford scholar of dead languages with strong ideas about the importance of myth and story and a deep appreciation of nature. His epic, 10 years in the making, recounts the Great War of the Ring and the closing of Middle-Earth's Third Age, a time when magic begins to fade from the world and men rise to dominance. Tolkien carefully details this transition with tremendous skill and love, creating in The Lord of the Rings a universal and all-embracing tale, a justly celebrated classic.
"Amongst the greatest works of imaginative fiction of the twentieth century." Sunday Telegraph
"It is hard to put into words the happiness that can be felt when reading a fantasy book as good as this and anybody who has never read it should set aside some time to do so." Fantasy Book Review
- 2. The Liveship Traders by Robin Hobb
Wizardwood, a sentient wood. The most precious commodity in the world. Like many other legendary wares, it comes only from the Rain River Wilds. But how can one trade with the Rain River Traders when only a liveship, fashioned from wizardwood, can negotiate the perilous waters of the Rain River? A liveship is a difficult ship to come by. Rare and valuable, it will quicken only when three family members, from succesive generations, have died on board. The liveship Vivacia is about to undergo her quickening, as Althea Vestrit's father is carried to her deck in his death-throes. Althea waits with awe and anticipation for the ship that she loves more than anything in the world to awaken. Only to find that her family has other plans for her... And dark, charming Kennit, aspiring pirate king, also lusts after such a ship: he well knows the power of wizardwood, and has plans of his own...
"Hobb is one of the great modern fantasy writers! what makes her novels as addictive as morphine is not just their imaginative brilliance but the way her characters are compromised and manipulated by politics." The Times
"The Liveship Traders trilogy has it all - intricate plot, realistic characters and a sense of magic." Fantasy Book Review
- 3. Earthsea Saga by Ursula Le Guin
As a young dragonlord, Ged, whose use-name is Sparrowhawk, is sent to the island of Roke to learn the true way of magic. A natural magician, Ged becomes an Archmage and helps the High Priestess Tenar escape from the labyrinth of darkness. But as the years pass, true magic and ancient ways are forced to submit to the powers of evil and death …
Ursula Le Guin's creation, Earthsea - an ancient world of wizards, magic, darkness and light, and an ever-shifting balance of power - is an acknowledged masterpiece.
"One of the major works of fantasy in this century." Observer
"Stunning, thought-provoking fantasy." Fantasy Book Review
- 4. Mistborn by Brandon Sanderson
Brandon Sanderson's epic fantasy trilogy overturns the expectations of readers and then goes on to tell the epic story of evil overturned in a richly imagined world. A thousand years ago evil came to the land and has ruled with an iron hand ever since. The sun shines fitfully under clouds of ash that float down endlessly from the constant eruption of volcanoes. A dark lord rules through the aristocratic families and ordinary folk are condemned to lives in servitude, sold as goods, labouring in the ash fields. But now a troublemaker has arrived and there is rumour of revolt. A revolt that depends on criminal that no-one can trust and a young girl who must master Allomancy - the magic that lies in all metals. A word of mouth success in the states the Mistborn trilogy has, this year, broken onto the New York Times Bestseller list.
"If you want to read one of the best fantasy books published in the last decade, then this definitely has to go at the top of your list. With two books you can read immediately after, characters that jump off the page, and a story that continues beyond this book but still leaving you fully satiated, Mistborn: The Final Empire is a must have for any reader of good fantasy." Fantasy Book Review
- 5. Tigana by Guy Gavriel Kay
Set in a beleaguered land caught in a web of tyranny, Tigana is the deeply moving story of a people struggling to be free. A people so cursed by the dark sorceries of the tyrant King Brandin that even the very name of their once beautiful land cannot be spoken or remembered.
But not everyone has forgotten. A handful of men and women, driven by love, hope and pride, set in motion the dangerous quest for freedom and bring back to the world the lost brightness of an obliterated name: Tigana.
"Tigana is so perfect I don’t think I could bear it if Kay wrote a sequel" Interzone
"I was 19 and fresh out of Fionavar when I snatched this book off the shelf. I was totally swept away by the grand scope of the adventure that the young singer Devin d’Asoli found himself in. How could any young person not become the character themselves to live the life of adventure?" Fantasy Book Review
- 6. The Bartimaeus Trilogy by Jonathan Stroud
Author Jonathan Stroud delivers such a potent and unforgettable mix of magic, history and intrigue with The Amulet of Samarkand, the first part of his compelling Bartimaeus Trilogy, that it is difficult not to want to read the next novel immediately. Undoubtedly the shortest 480 pages you'll ever read, The Amulet of Samarkand is a superb novel of revenge and adventure with the most original central character for years. Bartimaeus is a wisecracking Djinni (pronounced "Jinnee" we're reliably informed) unlike no other. Summoned from some otherworldly place to do the bidding of a pipsqueak trainee magician called Nathanial, he sets about his given task reluctantly but with aplomb. Nathanial is after revenge and that makes him dangerous. Previously humiliated by a powerful magician called Simon Lovelace in front of his impotent master, Nathanial has spent every waking hour for years cramming knowledge of the highest magic into his head so that he can exact his own special kind of vengeance. Bartimaeus is charged to steal a precious and powerful object--the Amulet of Samarkand--from Lovelace's residence, which the Djinni achieves but not without angering a few old mates on the same astral plane and having to spend the night annoyingly disguised as a bird. Bartimaeus, despite being bound to Nathaniel, discovers the boy's real name--a tool he can use to his own advantage. But he is constantly outwitted. Then an overriding danger becomes apparent that threatens the whole fabric of society and they must work together to combat it. Stroud's fantasy world is familiar, yet fascinatingly different. It's almost Victorian London, yet Magicians hold overall power and inhabit parliament. The writing is captivating, the story intelligent and mesmerising. It's difficult to imagine a more scintillating collection of characters and situations. Unmissable.
"There are many delights to savour in this series." Independent on Sunday
"Bartimaeus: The Amulet of Samarkand is a novel which successfully bridges the divide between children’s and adult fiction. The story of an ambitious young demonologist and an ancient and exasperated demon, it is a challenging and sophisticated read for young readers of perhaps 12 years and upwards and a witty entertaining and fast-moving adventure story for adults." Fantasy Book Review
- 7. Thursday Next by Jasper Fforde
Meet Thursday Next, literary detective without equal, fear or boyfriend. There is another 1985, where London’s criminal gangs have moved into the lucrative literary market, and Thursday Next is on the trail of the new crime wave’s MR Big. Acheron Hades has been kidnapping certain characters from works of fiction and holding them to ransom. Jane Eyre is gone. Missing. Thursday sets out to find a way into the book to repair the damage. But solving crimes against literature isn’t easy when you also have to find time to halt the Crimean War, persuade the man you love to marry you, and figure out who really wrote Shakespeare’s plays. Perhaps today just isn’t going to be Thursday’s day. Join her on a truly breathtaking adventure, and find out for yourself. Fiction will never be the same again...
A blend of alternate history and comic fantasy it is grand reading material, combining excellent writing and great inventiveness with more great jokes and groan-worthy puns than you could shake a stick at." Fantasy Book Review
- 8. The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman
Winner of the Newbery Medal. When a baby escapes a murderer intent on killing the entire family, who would have thought it would find safety and security in the local graveyard? Brought up by the resident ghosts, ghouls and spectres, Bod has an eccentric childhood learning about life from the dead. But for Bod there is also the danger of the murderer still looking for him - after all, he is the last remaining member of the family. A stunningly original novel deftly constructed over eight chapters, featuring every second year of Bod's life, from babyhood to adolescence. Will Bod survive to be a man?
"If asked to put The Graveyard Book into a genre, I'd have to say: this is a Neil Gaiman book. It's in the Genre of Excellence" Fortean Times
"So, the advice is to read this book, unless you are Neil Gaiman, in which case you should really be writing more and more and..." Fantasy Book Review
- 9. The Farseer Trilogy by Robin Hobb
A glorious classic fantasy combining the magic of Ursula Le Guin's The Wizard of Earthsea with the epic Mastery of Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings. Now reissued in gorgeous new livery. Fitz is a royal bastard, cast out into the world with only his magical link with animals for solace and companionship. But When Fitz is adopted into the royal household, he must give up his old ways and learn a new life; weaponry, scribing, courtly manners; and how to kill a man secretly. Meanwhile, raiders ravage the coasts, leaving people soulless. As Fitz grows towards manhood, he will have to face his first terrifying mission, a task that poses as much risk to himself as it does to his target: for Fitz is a threat to the throne ! but he may also be the key to the future of the kingdom.
"Hobb is one of the great modern fantasy writers ! what makes her novels as addictive as morphine is not just their imaginative brilliance but the way her characters are compromised and manipulated by politics." The Times
"The Farseer Trilogy weighs in at over 2,000 pages and is a rewarding and immensely enjoyable read. Not only fans of the fantasy genre could enjoy these books as there is such a large human element to them that they appeal to all. The three books improve upon each other and Assassin's Quest is a perfect conclusion to an absorbing tale." Fantasy Book Review
- 10. A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens
A Christmas Carol was published in December 1843, at a time when medieval Christmas traditions were in steady decline. Indeed, Dickens’s heart-warming tale has been seen as a major turning point; the popularity of its lamp-lit setting and its diverse characters – from the wonderfully wicked Scrooge to the crippled but optimistic Tiny Tim – helped ensure that family unity and ‘goodwill to all men’ once more became the appropriate sentiments of the Christmas season. Dickens used the poverty-stricken Cratchit family’s dependence on hard-hearted Scrooge to highlight the Victorian working class’s daily struggle against the indifference of the greedy.
"The book’s importance was cemented at Christmas 1852, when Dickens undertook public readings of it before both educated and working-class audiences. The success of these events led to public readings becoming a major part of his later career, usually featuring A Christmas Carol. The novella’s short length and strong moral message have ensured that it has become one of Dickens most well-know classics." Fantasy Book Review
- The Dark is Rising Sequence by Susan Cooper
- The Once And Future King by TH White
- Three Hearts and Three Lions by Poul Anderson
- Ack-Ack Macaque by Gareth L Powell
- Zoo City by Lauren Beukes
- The Stormlight Archive by Brandon Sanderson
- The Liveship Traders by Robin Hobb
- Earthsea Saga by Ursula Le Guin
- Mistborn by Brandon Sanderson
- The Bartimaeus Trilogy by Jonathan Stroud
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