Fantasy is a genre that I’ve only really ventured into in the last couple of years so I always feel like I’m playing catch-up! I was always really intimidated by fantasy, and I guess I still am to a degree, but I’m getting better at going for it because I tend to love whatever fantasy novels I pick up. Here are some of my very favourites:
Snow Like Ashes, Sara Raasch
Balzer + Bray|14th October 2014
Sixteen years ago the Kingdom of Winter was conquered and enslaved, leaving only eight survivors who search for ways to bring magic to the kingdom and free the slaves. One of those wo escaped is Meira who has lived her whole life as a refugee, training to be a warrior alongside her best friend, the Winterian King, and the boy she’s in love with. When scouts discover a possible way to bring magic back to Winter, Meria goes after it herself in an effort to prove herself.
I loved the complexity of Sara Raasch’s world. There are layers of history, politics and magic that should have drowned me, but I loved learning about Primoria and how it all works. Meira is the perfect heroine to lead you through such an adventure: stubborn, hot-headed and fiercely loyal to Winter. She wants to reclaim the life that was stolen for her and make herself worthy of Prince Mather. But it doesn’t quite work out how she expected, of course…
Orion|12th February 2015
Mare Barrow’s world is divided by blood: the Silver elite and the Red commoners. She’s Red living in poverty until she ends up working at the Silver Palace and discovers she has a deadly power, even with her Red blood, and it threatens to change the power balance of her world.
It took me a while to get involved in Red Queen, but once I was, I was hooked. I was on tenterhooks for most of the novel and I never knew who to trust, especially after a particularly staggering betrayal took place that changed everything for Mare and the reader. It blew me away!
A Court of Thorns and Roses, Sarah J Maas
Bloomsbury|7th May 2015
Feyre hunts in the forests by her home to feed her family, but she still fear what lies in the depths and the high price of killing a magical creature. While imprisoned in her enemy’s castle for her crimes, Feyre learns of an ancient evil that is growing and growing, threaten to destroy the human and Fey worlds. All while fighting the appeal of her captor’s captivating stare…
ACOTAR is a beautifully crafted mixture of high fantasy, faeries and a Beauty and the Beast reimagining. All of the elements intertwined wonderfully and it really felt like an original take on popular elements with strands of mythology thrown in as well. And as always, Sarah J Maas’s characterisation is on point. It left me aching for the next instalment in the series.
Strange Chemistry|7th February 2013
Iphigenia Laurus, or Gene, the daughter of a noble family, is uncomfortable in corsets and crinoline, and prefers climbing trees to debutante balls. Micah Grey, a runaway living on the streets, joins the circus as an aerialist’s apprentice and soon becomes the circus’s rising star. But Gene and Micah have balancing acts of their own to perform, a secret in their blood that could unlock the mysteries of Ellada.
Set in an alternate Victoriana, Pantomime takes you on a wondrous trip through the circus, sexuality, gender, gender roles, social class and its rules and restrictions and it really is brilliant. I loved the danger and corruption behind the acrobats and illusions and the way it led to a heartbreaking conclusion. The second book, Shadowplay, is just as excellent and I’m so excited for the third book to final come out hopefully soon!
Posion Study, Maria V Snyder
Mira Ink|21st September 2007
Imprisoned in the palace dungeons, Yelena is given a choice: be executed for murder or become the food taster for the Commander. She jumps at the chance. The palace is full of mysteries, secrets, dangers and betrayals but she finds herself in even more trouble when she discovers she has magical powers. Using magic is Ixia is forbidden and punished by death.
Yelena is strong, brave, witty and completely badass – what a heroine to lead one of the first fantasy novels I read. Being knew to the genre, it took a while for me to become accustomed to the world and the politics and the magic but I slowly fell in love with Yelena, Valek, Ixia and Sitia over the course of the trilogy. Snyder is extremely skilled at world building and characterisation, so much so that she brought Yelena back for another trilogy set five years after the original ended. This series has a legion of fans.
Scholastic|5th February 2015
Twylla is the Goddess embodied. Her touch is lethal. She's the executioner. No one wants to know the girl with the deadly hands. Until a new guard arrives at the castle and looks past her destiny. Unfortunately, she’s promised to the prince and you don’t cross the queen.
Mel Salisbury’s rich, evocative prose builds Twylla’s world beautifully. Though the world is complex, it’s completely accessible and engaging and I particularly loved the way Christian origin stories and meanings of different foods were worked into the basis of the novel’s mythology. So clever! There’s also a healthy dose of doomed love, life or death situations and a pulse-racing showdown.
Graceling, Kristin Cashore
Gollancz|3rd September 2009
Every one born in the Seven Kingdoms gets a Grace: an exceptional skill. Katsa’s is killing. Her skills are renowned and she wields her power as the King’s right hand man, putting done everyone who’s done him wrong. While out on a mission, Katsa comes across a Prince with skills that rival hers…
I adored every single world of this book. As well as being beautifully written and crafted, containing endlessly lovable characters and taking you on an epic journey, Graceling is a triumph in feminism. Katsa is strong, independent and powerful and refusing to twist her beliefs and morals to what is expected of her as a woman and as a girlfriend. This was one of the first openly feminist YA novels I read and it was a complete revelation.
Bloomsbury|2nd August 2012
Celeana Sardothien is Adarlan’s Assassin. She’s beautiful, clever and completely deadly, but she's also been caught. She’s serving a life sentence in the salt mines of Endovier until the Captain of the Guard offers her freedom for a price: a to-the-death tournament to become the King’s Champion.
You can't miss the crazed excitement for Queen of Shadows invading the internet at the moment – and justly so! I don’t really need to tell you much about Throne of Glass but this book, and this series, if full of danger, romance, secrets, betrayals and magic like you’ve never seen before. Add on the mind-blowing world-building, second to none characterisation and break-neck pace and it’s no wonder thousands have fallen under Celeana’s spell.
What are your favourite fantasy YA novels? Have I missed any that I shouldn’t have?