Okay, I know this title says 6 fantasy books for teens, but most of them are actually series, as the best ones I loved when I was a teen were in series. I used to love digging into great fantasy series and escape the real world for a good chunk of time. So, following on from my 6 favourite childhood books—recommended reading lists blog, I'm now going to run through 6 of my favourite fantasy books for teens that I loved reading back when I was a teen. There's a huge selection of YA books these days, and I'll get through some of the new ones eventually (like Six of Crows, which looks great, and The Guilded Ones, and a bunch of other new YA books sitting on my TBR list), but this list is very much a bunch of YA classics.
Do you know any of these? What did you think of them?
The list of 6 fantasy books for teens
Just like in my blog for the 6 children's books, I'll leave the list of 6 fantasy books for teens here so you can see what we'll be writing about in this blog and can easily click to navigate to one if it catches your fancy. These are the books I'll be discussing today. They're the books that I remember most from all the ones I read in my teen years, impacting me either on their creativity (like Artemis Fowl) or their intrigue and page-turning suspense (like the Garth Nix books or Philip Pulman's His Dark Materials series).
Here goes! (And in no particular order.)
Artemis Fowl books by Eoin Colfer
I really adore the quirky nature of the Artemis Fowl books. If you read my 6 books for kids blog post last time, you'll know I love quirky books. This is very much the case with this series. A science fiction fantasy series, it starts off by following Artemis, the 12-year-old son of a crime lord millionaire, who even as a teen is a criminal mastermind. But even though he starts off as an anti-hero, he develops through the series. It's fun to follow this boy genius through his adventures and seeing him interact with different races--including military faeries/elves trying to arrest him but ending up getting caught by him instead, goblins, and flatulent mud-power-eating dwarves (seriously, I guess it's the fart jokes for kids and young teens!)
It has a bit of a boy Sherlock Holmes vibe, but with fantasy and sci fi twists and different races, worlds, and larger than life adventures.
I'd read them all over again, when I get my hands on them again. I wonder whether it's worth bringing my books from UK over or just buying them again here ...
Sabriel, Liriel, Abhorsen, etc, by Garth Nix
I must admit, when I first read Sabriel as a child, it terrified me. But, I kept trying, and when I was a young teen, I to love this series. Don't get me wrong, there were still bits that creeped me out, but I'm notorious for being a bit of a wimp, and sometimes fantasy books have darker themes. But that doesn't stop them from being enjoyable and highly inspiring, and Garth Nix's series is definitely both. Much like Artemis Fowl, I think I want to reread these again. I bet I'll see different things in them now, reading them with an adult brain than when I was a young teen.
The first book, Sabriel, follows Sabriel as she embarks on a journey from one country, leaving her school life behind her, to another, where old magic reigns. Her father has sent her an undead messenger to encourage her to return to the place of magic to take on the family role and responsibility and learn from him to defeat an old magic necromancer trying to come back to life and destroy the two countries. But when she gets to their home, she finds out he's trapped in the world of the dead, so has to help him, before they then world together to find a way to trap and defeat the necromancer.
You can see how it's a bit dark for someone who doesn't like scary things! The number of times I read it before bed and then had to sleep with my light on ... But, it was really enjoyable, so worth the creepyness!
His Dark Materials series by Philip Pullman
Starting with Northern Lights, Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials series is another series for teenagers that has hints of darker storylines but is highly enjoyable. This was much easier to handle than Sabriel. In fact, I fell in love with this series, especially because of the dæmons (animal representations of human souls). I mean, who wouldn't want a magical animal buddy to follow you around everywhere as an extension of your soul? The perfect best friend.
Anyway, Northern Lights follows Lyra, the young teenage niece of the famous Lord Asriel, researcher and adventurer. One day, her best friend goes missing from the university they live in, presumably taken by known child kidnappers, and a wealthy lady comes to take Lyra on an adventure with her. Lured into the idea of adventure and wanting to be noticed by her uncle, Lyra goes with her, before discoving the lady is a member of the child kidnapping group. Lyra escapes and travels on her own to find her best friend, with the use of a magical compass given to her by the Master of the university. This journey takes her north, where she befriends Gyptians (travellers), witches, and a warrior bear prince, and finds her friend and the truth of the kidnappers with a shocking twist she'd never have expected.
What do you think your dæmon would be?
I, Coriander by Sally Gardner
I, Coriander is best described as a bit of a mix of Cinderella and Narnia (but with a faerie world instead of one with an evil winter queen. When Coriander is young, her mother dies, and her father remarries. As a silk merchant, he often goes off on travels to bring back silk to trade, and leaves her with her step mother on one such journey. Set in old London when there is conflict between puritans and royalists, the book follows the cruel mistreatment of Coriander by her stepmother and her stepmother's puritan friend, who lock her in a chest in the hopes of killing her while her father is away. However, instead of dying, Coriander is taken to another world (a faerie world), one where her birth mother actually came from. much like Narnia, time here is very different to old London. She lives a much better life here and emerges alive from the box years later to find her father, save her house from the stepmother who rules it, and to help the royalists.
I'm pretty sure this mixes all the fantasy genres into one book! It's quite romantic and traditionally fantastical, with the fairy tale themes mixed in with character growth and a drive to help her family (which, in my eyes) is better than waiting to be rescued. This mix made it really interesting.
Graceling by Kristin Cashore
Graceling is set in a fantasy world where some people are born with special powers (graces). These people are often controlled by the main population, out of fear that the people with graces are better and more powerful than them and are therefore likely to be a threat (much like how people with magic are often seen). The book follows Katsa, who has the unfortunate grace of killing, which is hated even by herself. She is controlled and owned by the king of the country, her uncle, and is forced to act as an assassin for him, or to threaten those he sees as a threat. Unknown to the king, she helps her cousin run a secret council to help the people of the nations, and when a prince of another nation comes for help to find his kidnapped grandfather, Katsa, wanting to be more than someone who murders for the king, goes to help and discovers political imbalances, national lies, and the truth of her powers.
I remember liking that this book was great to get into and imagine the world of, almost like you could travel with the characters. The characters were well flawed (all good characters need flaws), and the world was unique and interesting. I didn't read any of the following books from this one for some reasons, but it did get me into a whole new section of this genre, and I'll always remember the fun adventure.
Those who love Sarah J Maas' work will also love this. In fact, when I first read Sarah J Maas' Throne of Glass, I wondered if she'd been inspired by Graceling. It was very similar. Though I must admit, I found Graceling much more relatable, as Katsa wasn't made to be too much of a Mary Sue, whereas Celaena from ToG seemed a bit too unrealistic. Though, they are a very similar character.
The Hunger Games series by Suzanne Collins
Can there be a teen book list without The Hunger Games? I think not. This series is set in a dystopian version of the USA, following Katniss through her sole goal to keep her family and friend's family alive and give them a good life. But, each year, a big event called The Hunger Games disrupts the nation, and 2 teens (a boy and a girl) are taken from each district to battle it out and be the last one standing. The teens are chosen through a lottery (though people can volunteer if they wish, only done really in the 'fighting' nations where people train for glory in the games), and most people do whatever they can to avoid this. Katniss' only goal was to protect her little sister from being elected, so when her sister's name comes out of the lottery, Katniss volunteers, and the book follows her battle through the games to try to come back to her family alive.
To read this as an adult, you'll see huge political statements and see the horror of the Capitol controlling the people with these games to stop them from rising up. I love books with political or societal statements, but as a teen, I don't think I saw this so much. This is a great YA fantasy novel, as it gives teens escapism to the dystopian world, following Katniss as she cleverly finds ways to avoid being killed by the most violent of the tributes, and shows her caring side to those like her who stumbled their way in. For those who like romance, there's also a romance sub-plot, though Katniss isn't too interested in this at the time, obviously trying to stay alive.
Your YA fantasy book lists
Thanks for reading my 6 fantasy books for teens blog. I'd love to know your thoughts.
Have you read any of the books on this list?
Reckon you'll share it with the teens in your life?
What would your 6 best teen books be?
Would love to share book titles! Comment your thoughts and your lists below.