The 8 Best YA Lost Heir Fantasy books
YA lost heir fantasy books are a staple of the YA fantasy genre. You cannot look me in the eye and tell me you aren’t obsessed with an unlikely heir who claws their way out of obscurity to reclaim their ancestral throne. There are dresses and sword fights and monsters and subterfuge, and even a bit of romance. It’s fun, I promise.
Runaway heirs have their reasons for getting out. But, in the lost heir trope, there is an understanding that they will have to come back. A kingdom is about to crumble under the rule of a cruel tyrant. A too-young heir must now reclaim their throne. Even better — a teen with an unknown royal lineage discovers they now have to rule. These books all have a lost teen heir to something and are often in a fantasy setting of some kind.
YA lost heir fantasy books stage an absolutely delicious trope that often has two of my favorite things: teen royalty and royalty pretending to be “normal.” Royalty in fantasy worlds can have an amount of training that can allow them to survive or protect themselves, but they often are missing the experience of living as regular people. The fish-out-of-water element of the trope unsettles a once powerful royal as they make their way among the people they are in charge of governing. The lost heir trope often makes characters more competent rulers because, in the end, they have real-life experience to draw on when it comes to governing. I like to think of it as a panic-prompted work study.
The Requirements for a fantastical lost Heir
A bit of context, this list of YA lost heir fantasy books has many canceled weddings because a member of the wedding party did, in fact, run from their wedding. I think they all had valid points, but it is still a fun commonality a surprising number of these books have. When compiling my examples, I realized I just had to put some YA backlist books in because they really did the most and I needed them in here. There is a range of low and high YA fantasy books, so I hope you a ready to find some lost heirs.
Where’d The Heirs Go? YA Lost Heir Fantasy books
This Woven Kingdom by Tahereh Mafi
Content Warnings: Attempted Suicide, Death of A Loved One
The heir to the Jinn kingdom was rumored to be lost forever, but she was just hidden. These days, most view Alizeh not as a magical heir to the throne, but as a household servant and seamstress. She knows she needs to remain hidden to survive, but when she meets crown prince Kamran, she cannot deny their instant connection. They might just put everything on the line if they pursue a romance that is destined to fail. This high fantasy inspired by Persian mythology is full of poignant writing, cruel circumstance, and empathetic characters.
Legendborn by Tracy Deonn
Content Warnings: Past Trauma, Parent Death, Racism, Misogyny
When Bree Mathews decided to attend a program for high schoolers at a university, she never expected to uncover her magical inheritance. However, when she arrives, she not only uncovers her powers, but also the truth that demons walk the earth and the decedents from King Arthur’s court protect the world from them. Bree meets Nick, the reluctant heir to King Arthur’s legacy, and he agrees to let her join The Order as a paladin so she can find out how her mother really died. Now, Bree has more power from her matrilineal line than she could have ever guessed, and The Order might not be able to stop her before she can claim it.
Roar by Cora Carmack
Content Warning: Panic Attacks, Misogyny
A princess without the power to control magical storms — a vital power in this world — runs away from a marriage with a powerful prince from another kingdom when she discovers his family aims to overthrow her family. Aurora Pavan is the perfect queen-in-training, save for her lack of magical aptitude. When she discovers her fiancée’s subterfuge, she escapes to find a different way to take hold of power, before her weakness destroys her kingdom. Aurora discovers storm hunters who face storms head-on and control them in a way that might save them all.
Blood Debts by Terry J Benton-Walker
Content Warnings: Death of Loved Ones, Homophobia, Racism, Lynching, Attempted Sexual Assault
Clement and Cristina Trudeau are twin heirs to their dethroned magical family who are more concerned with caring for their sick mother while mourning their father. That is, until they discover someone on the magical council cursed their mother. Now Christina refuses to touch the magic that was her specialty and Clement cannot put down the magic that distracts him better than anything else. Although the formerly inseparable twins feel like strangers, they must come together once again if they want to solve a long-cold murder case and protect their family from all the magical threats New Orleans has to offer.
The Iron King by Julie Kagawa
Content Warnings: Sexual Harassment, Torture, Kidnapping
After her father disappeared, Meghan Chase believed her life couldn’t become any stranger. Certainly, she did not expect to discover she was the daughter of a Summer faery king and player in a war she’d never heard of. She meets a prince who might just love her or might want to kill her, but one thing is for sure, right now, they need each other if they want to survive. This is a backlist favorite of mine for fans of old-school YA fey portal fantasy books.
Flame in the Mist by Renée Ahdieh
Content Warnings: Death of a Loved One, Suicide, Torture, Misogyny
Mariko is the daughter of a prominent samurai, twin to her cunning brother Kenshin, and an alchemist, but she was always raised to marry well. On her wedding march to the imperial palace, she survives an attack by the Black Clan. Now, she is free for the first time in her life and she takes up revenge against the Clan who wanted her dead. But, infiltrating them only confuses her further as she falls in love with the people she vowed to hate.
Ruined by Amy Tintera
Content Warning: Torture, Kidnapping, Imprisonment
In Ruina, Emelina Flores knows there is nothing left for her after her parents were murdered and her sister was kidnapped. She may be a princess, but she has no power. The best she can do is disguise herself as the enemy prince’s fiancée, kill the royal family, and get her sister back. But, as she grows to trust the prince, who is far too kind for his own good, her conviction is tested, and Em comes to question if the ends always justify the means.
The Kiss of Deception by Mary E. Pearson
Content Warnings: Kidnapping, Misogyny, Attempted Sexual Assault
Princess Lia’s parents attempted to cover up her lack of magical foresight with a quick marriage that could secure a political alliance. But she avoids the arranged marriage to a prince when she escapes her royal life with her best friend. She will do her best to keep a normal life, so, the lost heir finds a place at a tavern. Then her ex-fiancé and her assassin find her in turn, but more importantly, neither the reader nor Lia knows who is who. Lia sets out on a quest with strangers she cannot trust and begins a path to save the country and the people she ran from in the first place.
YA Lost Heir Fantasy books Found Once More
YA lost heir fantasy books are always a good time, but these ones hold a special place in my heart. Sometimes an unfamiliar world needs to challenge us. Sometimes we need to discover something important about our family or self later in life. Other times, you just want to watch someone who’s lost find out what they need to do. Whatever way it goes for you, I hope this list gave you plenty of YA lost heir fantasy books to pick from. If you need more YA reading, you could check out these New YA Fantasy Series, these Standalone YA Books, or these YA Books With Excellent Friendships.