When you go looking for books about magic schools you can be pretty sure which one you’ll find first: J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series. In Rowling’s seven-book epic, Harry Potter’s parents are murdered and he survives a murder attempt from the infamous dark wizard Voldemort. When he turns 11, he’s accepted to Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry where he’s introduced to a new world, good friends, and new and horrible ways for Voldemort to try and reclaim his former power. Though Harry Potter might be one of the most easily recognizable books about magic schools, the sub-genre is an essential pocket of the fantasy genre, and there are many of them beyond Hogwarts. And lucky for you, we have a list of magic schools where anyone might want to go to (or…not go to) to learn magic.
If You’re Looking For a Classic…
A Wizard of Earthsea by Ursula K. Le Guin
You can pretty much draw a direct line between Le Guin’s Earthsea and Harry Potter, down to the powerful boy wizard who goes off and develops a close connection with his biggest enemy. As Ged’s power grows, so does his hubris, and he accidentally releases a mysterious and dangerous entity, as much a danger to the world as it is to Ged. This is a brilliant coming-of-age about a powerful boy who needs to find himself.
If You’re Looking For Something Dark…
Ninth House by Leigh Bardugo
So the magic school in this one isn’t really magic itself. It’s just Yale, but it is also home to the Houses of the Veil, eight secret societies made up of some of the country’s most powerful and privileged. New to the university is Alex Stern, a newcomer to Lethe House and tasked with keeping the other Houses in line. After a crash course in magic, rituals, and ghosts (called Grays), an unexpected tragedy leaves Alex without her mentor, and when a young woman is murdered and one of the societies seems to be responsible, Alex realizes no one’s eager to point fingers at the other Houses or their members. But the closer Alex gets to the answers, the more danger she’s in. Bardugo’s Yale is tantalizing and alluring, but also horrifying in its depiction of privileged people with dangerous magical tools at their disposal.
Vita Nostra by Marina Dyachenko and Sergey Dyachenko
So you probably won’t want to go to the Special Institute of Technologies. But then again, no one does, not even Vita Nostra‘s heroine, Sasha. After succeeding at inexplicable and odd challenges, Sasha’s instructed to attend the Institute. She goes, even though she doesn’t want to, and when she arrives it becomes clear that no one else really wants to be there either. The lessons are impossible and impenetrable, and to fail at them brings punishment upon students’ loved ones. This is suspenseful and terrifying. If you get an acceptance letter from this school, you’re probably better off throwing it out.
If You Want Something That Turns Harry Potter Upside Down…
Magic for Liars by Sarah Gailey
Private investigator Ivy Gamble has spent her whole life trying to convince herself she doesn’t want to be magic. But then a murder is committed at the Osthorne Academy of Young Mages, Ivy is enlisted to solve the crime. The magical authorities have written it off as an accident due to a spell gone awry, but the school’s administration thinks differently, and since Ivy’s magical (and estranged) twin sister Tabitha is a professor, Ivy’s enlisted with solving the crime. This is a Veronica Mars–esque noir that plays with the Chosen One narrative.
Black Mage by Daniel Barnes and DJ Kirkland
In this graphic novel, Tom Token is the first Black student to attend St. Ivory, a historically white wizarding school. Though Tom’s excited to be there, and his attendance makes many think the wizarding world is finally progressing, it’s not long before Tom realizes all isn’t as it seems. The faculty are all part of the KKK. And the headmaster? Also the Grand Master. Inspired by the lack of Black characters in Harry Potter, this is a fun and direct take on magical education and racism that draws from manga and anime.
If You Want Something Funny and Lighthearted (But Not Lacking in Depth)…
SuperMutant Magic Academy by Jilliam Tamaki
This hilarious book from Jillian Tamaki is a webcomic (it’s made up of a bunch of single-page comics) in print form, about a bunch of teenagers at SuperMutant Magic Academy who juggle the mundane chaos of high school with special powers. There are unrequited crushes, seances gone awry, underage drinking, and musings on the confusing nature of the future. Funny and irreverent with a little something for everyone to relate to.
The School for Good and Evil by Soman Chainani
In this middle grade series a pair of kids is plucked from their homes each year by the mysterious School Master and whisked away. This year, it’s best friends Sophie and Agatha. The beautiful Sophie, committed to good deeds, knows she’s a perfect fit for the School for Good, where she’ll learn how to be the best fairytale princess she can be. And the homely Agatha who doesn’t seem to like anybody is a natural fit for the School for Evil. But when the School Master comes, neither girl ends up where she thought. Sophie is dropped in with the Nevers to take villainy classes and Agatha joins the Evers to learn how to best achieve the happiest of ever afters. This is a fun and entertaining romp about friendship and fighting fate.