The YA genre is booming, with more than double the number of books in that genre being published each year, than ten years before. One specific area that seems to be of particular popularity is fantasy YA books. I have been fortunate enough to interview a plethora of wonderful YA authors. It made me wonder, in their opinion, what are some of the best fantasy YA books to be published. So to discover the best fantasy YA books, I put together an expert panel of authors who know the genre inside out. So, before we discover the best fantasy YA books, we must first meet that panel…
John L. Monk is a published author who lives with his wife, Dorothy, in Virginia, USA. John L. Monk has published five books, with his one of his most recent releases, Hell’s Children, drawing some great praise. The book has been described as “an emotional and action filled post-apocalyptic story with unforgettable characters”, as well as “a post-apocalyptic Lord of the Flies that is both terrifying and uplifting”.
Charlie Holmberg is a fantasy author who grew up in Salt Lake City, Utah. Graduating in 2010, Charlie Holmberg would go on to publish numerous books, perhaps most notably The Master Magician, which was a Wall Street Journal bestseller, and had its rights bought up by Disney in 2016. Charlie Holmberg’s sixth novel, The Fifth Doll, came out in August 2017; and experienced an extremely positive reception.
Jeff Wheeler took an early retirement from his career to become a full-time author. He is now a respected and recognised author of fantasy and science fiction books. His Muirwood series is gathering attention and a devoted fanbase. With his most recent release The Thief’s Daughter becoming a best seller on one of Amazon’s fantasy fiction lists. Jeff knows the fantasy genre and was the perfect author for this panel.
Now, let’s discover the best fantasy YA books…
John L. Monk:
I was standing in my yard when I first became aware of a thing called a “book” that I could actually read and enjoy. Books, as my 6th-grade self saw them at the time, were something only girls bothered with, or work my teacher assigned for book reports. That day in my yard, my best friend told me about Wizard of Earthsea — a story of a kid (like me) who travels to a wizard school to acquire power and wisdom. After reading this wonderful book, the reading bug bit and I was hooked forever.
This is the debut novel by Sabaa Tahir, and it is stunning. Laia is a slave by choice. Elias is trapped by a future most of his people would envy. These characters are incredibly deep and fulfil an equally deep plot. Even the side characters are three-dimensional. Tahir knows how to rope emotion and keep you flipping pages. You feel sympathetic for just about everybody, even the bad guys. What’s even better is that the sequels are just as powerful as the first book—none of that general series downfall we’re all so used to.
This one really surprised me with its blend of humor and realistic teenagers. Young Ozzy’s parents were abducted from their backwoods home in the Pacific Northwest and he’s raised alone…well, except for a robotic raven. It’s the story about how Ozzy hires a cranky wizard from the nearby town to help use magic to find his missing parents. But is the man really a wizard or a homeless crackpot? It’s a great tale, full of suspense and mystery and yes, a little magic.
John L. Monk:
I loved Piers Anthony’s “Xanth” series from start to finish. And what a great start “A Spell For Chameleon” is. As a teenager, I sort of had this idea in my head that I wasn’t all that special. Bink, the main character, feels the same way. Unlike me, his ordinariness is a crime that’ll get him thrown out of his community. Wow! Now that sounds like an adventure!
I love this book. I recommend it to everyone. It’s my husband’s favorite novel, now. Maggie Stiefvater creates a world so real I actually looked it up to see if it existed. It’s great for fans of fantasy but fits very nicely with those who might not love the genre. The fantasy element is light but oh so believable. This book has both traces of romance and horror. The characters are so fantastic, I actually considered naming my daughter “Puck,” after the female lead. This is a definite must-read.
This is Rosamund Hodge’s debut novel and an absolutely fantastic read. A young girl marries a demon lord with the intent to kill him, but she’d caught in a web so knotted, she (and the reader) can’t see an end in sight. It’s heavily flavored with fairytale, but with twists you cannot predict. So many twists! The plot pulls you in and keeps you guessing throughout the entire book. It’s near impossible to put down. It’s sort of a Beauty and the Beast mashup with Rumpelstiltskin, but with so much of Hodge’s own imaginings, it becomes its own beautiful monster.
This is the first book of the Pellinor series which is a really great epic fantasy written for YA readers. It’s a big saga, not unlike Wheel of Time, and its characters are multidimensional and interesting. The main character, Maerad, is a slave and in horrible circumstances when she’s discovered by a wandering bard named Cadvan who teaches her music and magic. What the author does best though is creating original and interesting cultures as the characters travel from land to land preparing for an evil that is about to overwhelm everything they know and care about and which Maerad must prevent.