Sunday, March 4, 2018

11 YA Fantasy Books You Should Read (If You've Never Read YA Fantasy)

If you think YA fantasy is all about supernatural love triangles and dystopian futures, you'd be doing yourself a disservice. There's some fine fantasy in the YA section. Here are 11 of my favorites:

The Raven Boys (Blue Lily, Lily Blue, The Dream Thieves, The Raven King) series by Maggie Stiefvater
     Five young people are on a quest in the rural south for a legendary Welsh king. The adults are interesting and add layers to the teen characters. The villains are fantastic and wholly original. In fact, everything about this story is pretty much weird and original, the protagonists journeys both fun and poignant.

The Hallowmere series by Tiffany Trent
     Set during the 1800s in America after the Civil War, this fantasy is about a group of young women who have been targeted by the malevolent faery folk. The faery prince, the villain, is seductive and terrifying, not the typical romantic antagonist. Each book features a different heroine and her struggle against these creatures. Unfortunately, this series was cut short by its publisher, but there are still 6 books: In the Serpent's Coils, By Venom's Sweet Sting, Between Golden Jaws, Maiden of the Wolf, Queen of the Masquerade, and Oracle of the Morrigan.

Servants of the Storm by Delilah S. Dawson
     Truly creepy and set in the contemporary south after a hurricane--which turns out to be a horrifying entity served by demons and other monsters that creep about in the ruined city. The heroine tries to save a dead friend's soul while discovering this underworld with another friend and a charming boy with a sinister secret.

The Golden Compass by Phillip Pullman
     A race of good witches, martial and intelligent polar bears, animal familiars, and a tough young heroine and a hero who sacrifices for her make this an original fantasy for all ages.

Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor
     A romance between an angel and a demon, but not what you think. The angels are a martial race who have tried to conquer what they feel as the inferior people--the Chimerae. Karou is a young woman living in Prague, raised by benevolent, if monstrous, Chimerae. When she meets Akiva, the angel, an ancient connection is revealed between them.

Tales of Beauty and Madness (Nameless, Wayfarer, Kin) by Lili St. Crow
     There are darker shades of Once Upon a time in this fantasy series set in a contemporary world that has seen a magical apocalypse. The series is about a friendship between three girls who are Cinderella, Snow White, and Red Riding Hood. Yes, there are boys, but they don't matter as much as the girls' fierce support of one another.

The Winter Prince by Elizabeth E. Wein
     A different and disturbing take on King Arthur, centering around Medraut, King Artos's eldest bastard son. His half-brother, Lleu, is their father's favorite. Artos's sister--Medraut's mother--is a truly unsettling villain. Themes of abuse and twisted family dynamics add new dimension to this myth, made all the darker because it's told from the anti-hero Medraut's point-of-view.

White Cat by Holly Black
     Cassiel is a curse worker,a  young man in this contemporary fantasy who lives, gypsy-like, in an alternative world of almost gangster-like magic. Curse work has some truly horrifying consequences and Cassiel might have to betray his family to save a girl he loves.

The Dark Angel Trilogy by Meredith Ann Pierce
     Set in another world, on the moon, this strange and beautiful fantasy is about a girl named Aeriel who is stolen away, with her beautiful best friend, by one of the feared dark angels--heartless and lovely creatures who steal human girls to make their wives. He takes Aeriel as his servant because she isn't beautiful. His wives are all phantoms--he's a vampire. but Aeriel learns he's also captive to an evil witch.

The Silver Kiss by Annette Curtis Klause
     Zoe is losing her mother to cancer. She's targeted by a feral and strange young man named Simon--whose enemy, a creature that pretends to be an innocent little boy, stalks him. It's an exquisite tale of defeating monsters and an acceptance of what it means to live and let go of those you love.

Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo
     This has shades of steampunk, set in a sort of Victorian world with shades of a Vermeer painting, with a dark anti-hero not expected in YA. Kaz is a teenage crime lord who must assemble a crew of young criminals to pull off a heist that might be impossible. Each character has a stake in this heist and failure means something different to each of them. The best scenes are when the young criminals are together, at odds, or saving one another.

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