Here’s a collection of must-read YA fantasy books for teens that will take you to far away worlds and captivate you for thousands of pages. Let’s go over some classics of the genre, along with some newer series’ that will undoubtedly become the classics of tomorrow.
If your teenage years are behind you, don’t worry, plenty of the most epic and enduring fantasy books fall into the YA category, and adults will enjoy them immensely, too.
The Kingdom of Back by Marie Lu
- Released: March 2nd, 2020
- Recommend age: 12 and up
- Pages: 336
- ISBN: 9781524739010
Marie Lu’s most well-known work is probably the science fiction series Legend, but she brings her chops over to the fantasy genre in this stand-alone, which is the first of the fantasy novels for teens that we’re looking at today.
This story is about the sister of famed composed Amadeus Mozart. Most people aren’t aware of Nannerl Mozard, and this book offers a look into her life. This historical YA fantasy is very much worth the read, especially if you’re looking to dip your toes into the fantasy genre without feeling like you’re committing to an epic 10 book saga.
“Born with a gift for music, Nannerl Mozart has just one wish–to be remembered forever. But even as she delights audiences with her masterful playing, she has little hope she’ll ever become the acclaimed composer she longs to be. She is a young woman in 18th century Europe, and that means composing is forbidden to her. She will perform only until she reaches a marriageable age–her tyrannical father has made that much clear.” (via Penguin)
The Kingdom of Back Reviews
“A gorgeous story about what it means to be forgotten.” (via Buzzfeed)
“With a unique premise and an understated beauty . . . this novel is unlike anything else [Lu’s] published. It is historical fact transformed into a fairy tale and twisted into a tragedy. There is no question of Lu’s extraordinary literary talent; she is at peak form here with her nuanced tale of sibling rivalry and familial distrust.” (via Tor.com)
“A dreamlike story about music, magic, and the Mozart siblings. . . the end result is spellbinding.” (via BookRiot)
A Wizard of Earthsea by Ursula K. Le Guin
- Released: 1968
- Pages: 183
- ISBN: 0547773749
This is an older book, originally published in 1968. It was followed in the series by The Tombs of Atuan. It has great reviews, and has managed to stand the test of time to be enjoyed by multiple generations of people.
Some mistakenly go into it hoping for something to satiate them in the ways Harry Potter did, but it’s just not the same type of book. A Wizard of Earthsea focused a lot more on descriptions to help build the world in which it takes place, especially in the first book of an on-going series. After the popularity of the Harry Potter series, it was common to see recommendations like “If you love Harry Potter, you MUST read A Wizard of Earthsea…”
Interestingly enough, the author of A Wizard of Earthsea replied to the comparisons, and shared their views on the first Harry Potter book, in response to someone who had said “Rowling can type, but Le Guin can write.”
Ursula K. Le Guin responded: “I have no great opinion of it. When so many adult critics were carrying on about the “incredible originality” of the first Harry Potter book, I read it to find out what the fuss was about, and remained somewhat puzzled; it seemed a lively kid’s fantasy crossed with a “school novel”, good fare for its age group, but stylistically ordinary, imaginatively derivative, and ethically rather mean-spirited.”
“Hungry for power and knowledge, Sparrowhawk tampered with long-held secrets and loosed a terrible shadow upon the world. This is the tale of his testing, how he mastered the mighty words of power, tamed an ancient dragon, and crossed death’s threshold to restore the balance.” (via Goodreads)
A Wizard of Earthsea Reviews
“This is a beautifully written book but it is not Harry Potter. Rowling’s books are plot driven team based struggles while Le Guin’s tales are woven around the metaphysical. If you have any interest in morality or spirituality you may find these books profound and deeply affecting. If not, Le Guin’s books could well leave you feeling a bit bored.” – David Leow, via Goodreads
These Violent Delights by Chloe Gong
- Released: 2020
- Recommend age: 14 and up
- Pages: 400
- ISBN: 9781534457713
Everyone who has ever consumed some form of popular media is familiar with a retelling of Romeo and Juliette, but Chloe Gong, in her first novel, manages to put a fresh spin on the literary classic with her retelling that’s set in Shanghai about 100 years in the past.
This award-winning novel was very well received by critics and readers alike. Even if you aren’t fully brushed up on your Shakespeare, there’s a lot to get out of These Violent Delights, and it may even serve as a good entry-point to the Bard. Chances are, like many others, you’ll find yourself early awaiting Chloe Gong’s next release.
“This mesmeric fantastical reinterpretation of Romeo and Juliet nestles the star-crossed lovers—renamed Roma Montagov and Juliette Cai—in an atmospheric mid-1920s Shanghai, where the Russian Montagovs, head of the White Flowers, and the Chinese Cais, head of the Scarlet Gang, have been embroiled in an age-old blood feud.” (via Publishers Weekly)
These Violent Delights Reviews
“This book is fantastic. Enough said. From the beginning, Chloe Gong entraps you with her vivid descriptions and fast paced plot. The first line could be seen as the start of my love affair with this incredible story.” – Robin, via Goodreads
Other Great Fantasy Books for Teenagers To Check Out?
Please feel free to recommend all of your favorite fantasy novels for teens, we’ll include a list – you can even leave a comment with a quick review to share what you like about it, if you’d like to have the opportunity to share some of your favorite fantasy books for teens with other readers from all around the world.