I am a HUGE YA fantasy junkie. Though it’s easy to go wrong in this genre – poor world-building, unbelievable characters, and the like – when the books are good, they’re really good. Below I’ve collated 20 completed YA fantasy series which are either so good you have to read them for the first time, or so good you ought to revisit them.
I’ve also included little quotations from each series to give you a flavour of what they might be like, above the summaries.
1. The Cruel Prince
2. The Wicked King
3. The Queen of Nothing
If I cannot be better than them, I will become so much worse.
17-year-old Jude Duarte lives in Faerie with her twin sister Taryn and their adoptive father, Madoc, after Madoc killed their real parents. As the only humans in the world of fae, they’re at significant risk. Chief among their enemies is Prince Cardan, youngest son of the Faerie King. The trilogy traces Jude’s thorny relationship with Cardan as she seeks power – and finds that keeping a throne is a thousand times harder than winning one.
This my go-to YA recommendation for literally everyone and their cat. It’s a little dark, intricately plotted, and centres one of the most amazing antiheroines I’ve ever encountered. The first two installments are five-star reads. Unfortunately, the conclusion doesn’t quite live up to their brilliance, but on the whole I can’t recommend this series enough.
1. The Young Elites
2. The Rose Society
3. The Midnight Star
It is pointless to believe what you see, if you only see what you believe.
Adelina Amouteru survived the blood fever that swept her country years ago. But the disease didn’t just turn her hair white: she’s been left as a Young Elite with the power to create illusions. Enter Enzo Valenciano, a mysterious fellow magic-user who recruits Adelina to his secret society before she’s captured by the ruthless Inquisition Axis.
Adelina is another great antiheroine (I have a bit of a type). We follow her on a dark journey as she pursues power and revenge in this pseudo-Italian fantasy world.
1. Red Winter
2. Dark Tempest
3. Immortal Fire
“Are you ready to die?”
“No,” she whispered.
“Then rise and take up your sword.”
Emi is a kamikagari, a Japanese shrine maiden raised from birth to become the human host of the divine goddess Amaterasu. In just a few months the goddess will descend, and Emi’s self will be wiped away. Then she meets a kitsune named Shiro – and suddenly her future seems a lot less set than she thought it was.
This is one of the best YA fantasy series I’ve ever read. I’m awed by the depth of the Shinto mythology-based world woven for us in the novel. It doesn’t hurt that the romance is amazing, either.
1. The Silence of Medair
2. Voice of the Lost
Always, instead of the best, she found herself struggling to make the least-worst decision.
In a Rip van Winkle–esque twist, Medair the herald awakes from sleep…to find that 500 years have passed, the Palladium Empire she fought for is long vanquished, and the Ibisians they battled have won. Her friends are dead and her old allegiance is now futile. Walking the world once more, Medair must navigate the passage of centuries, even as a new war dawns on the horizon.
Höst generally writes good YA fantasy. This is no exception. The world is rich and complex, and the duology gets bonus points for having one of the best (if most unconventional) resolutions to a love triangle I’ve ever seen.
1. Six of Crows
2. Crooked Kingdom
Kaz leaned back. “What’s the easiest way to steal a man’s wallet?”
“Knife to the throat?” asked Inej.
“Gun to the back?” said Jesper.
“Poison in his cup?” suggested Nina.
“You’re all horrible,” said Matthias.
Returning to her Grishaverse, Bardugo brings us another fast-paced YA fantasy with a great ensemble cast. Kaz Brekker, gang leader, gathers together a group of spies and criminals to pull off a world-saving heist. Cue a range of diverse romances and nonstop action.
There’s also an upcoming Netflix adaptation!
Let this be my final lesson. Everyone and everything has a time to die.
Sabriel is the daughter of the Abhorsen, the man with the task of dealing the final death to the hungry Dead who have crawled their way back to life. But when her father goes missing, she must journey into the mysterious Old Kingdom to save him.
An oldie from the ’90s, but an absolute goldie. I had the privilege of meeting Nix a few months ago at a book signing too, and he was lovely! This series has absolutely wonderful world-building and it’s my go-to YA fantasy. I can’t stress how much I love it.
2. World After
3. End of Days
I never thought about it before, but I’m proud to be human. We’re ever so flawed. We’re frail, confused, violent, and we struggle with so many issues. But all in all, I’m proud to be a Daughter of Man.
The world is ending. Angels rule the sky, and gangs rule the streets. In the middle of it all is 17-year-old Penryn, who’s just trying to survive with her mentally ill mother and disabled younger sister. When her sister is kidnapped by a group of angels, Penryn teams up with an agnostic angel named Raffe to get her back.
This is another trilogy where the third book is on the weak side, but the first two are dark, gory, and excellent. Penryn is a strong, smart heroine who has her priorities right – there’s only a smidgen of romance. Also, the banter between her and Raffe is hilarious.
1. Shadow of the Fox
2. Soul of the Sword
3. Night of the Dragon
It is very hard to be human, little fox. Even the humans themselves don’t do a great job of it.
I picked up this one because I was desperately looking for another Japanese mythology–inspired series to cure the hangover from Red Winter.
Yumeko is half-kitsune, half-human, and all mischief. She’s been raised by monks in the Silent Winds temple – but when they’re killed, she’s forced to flee with a valuable ancient scroll. Coming after her is Kage, a samurai whose job is to retrieve the scroll at any cost.
1. The Brilliant Death
2. The Storm of Life
…I’d often felt I didn’t fit inside the boundaries of the word girl. It reminded me of a country I could happily visit, but the longer I stayed, the more I knew I couldn’t live there all the time. There were moments when I sorely wished to be free of the confines of this body, the expectations it seemed to carry.
Teodora DiSangro, daughter of a mafia don, is a strega – a magic wielder with the power to turn her enemies into inanimate objects. When the new Capo tries to assassinate her father, she transforms into a boy and travels to the capital to save him. In the process she meets the genderfluid strega Cielo, who switches effortlessly between male and female.
1. The Bear and the Nightingale
2. The Girl in the Tower
3. The Winter of the Witch
Sleep is cousin to death, Vasya. And both are mine.
In the near-eternal winter at the edge of Russia, Vasilisa spends her time huddling around the fire with her siblings and listening to fairy tales. Her favourite is that of Frost: Morozko, demon of winter, stealer of souls. When her father brings home a new wife opposed to honouring the old gods, misfortune starts to plague their superstitious little village. Vasilisa must journey into the depths of folklore to save her people.
I adore this series. It’s lush, fantastical, the epitome of Russian fantasy – better, in my opinion, than the Grisha trilogy. Similar to Naomi Novik.
1. Poison Study
2. Magic Study
3. Fire Study
4. Shadow Study
5. Night Study
6. Dawn Study
To Yelena, our newest food taster. May you last longer than your predecessor.
Yelena, a criminal condemned to execution for murder, is suddenly offered a last chance at life…as food taster for the Commander of Ixia after the sudden expiration of the old one. But she won’t be able to escape. Valek, his chief of security, feeds her a deadly poison, and if she doesn’t take the antidote every day she will die an agonising death. Yelena unwittingly becomes involved in the fate of nations as she just tries to survive each day.
This series was originally a trilogy (the first book is by far the best) but Snyder later went back and hugely expanded it. Very interesting premise.
1. Crown Duel
2. Court Duel
Some of it was wrong decisions made for the right reasons, and a little of it was right decisions made for the wrong reasons; but most of what I did was wrong decisions for the wrong reasons.
The Countess Meliara has spent the last year engaged in a guerrilla war against her corrupt king. Ill-prepared, uneducated, and too headstrong for her own good, the conflict is not going well for her. Things become worse when she meets the foppish Marquis of Shevraeth. As an enemy general, his tactics are responsible for many of her defeats, and Meliara is determined that she will never accept his friendship – even if their goals are more closely aligned than she thought.
Meliara is a fun heroine. She’s totally unlike all the other noblewomen, and that leads her into many scrapes. Shevraeth is a Heyer-esque hero who’s always ten steps ahead of everyone else.
I’ve always found St. Crow’s books a little whimsical, but this series takes whimsicality to an art form. It’s set in a dystopic fantasy world filled with monsters and humans and creatures that defy description. Each book follows a different heroine from a trio of best friends – mute, scarred Camille; brilliant, damaged Ellie; and wild, independent Ruby. The first is a Snow White retelling, the second Cinderella and the third Little Red Riding Hood.
My definite favourite is the first book in the series, which follows Camille and her adoptive brother Nico. It’s sometimes a little difficult to follow plots (the stories are like fever dreams) but St. Crow’s writing is beautiful and lyrical.
1. In the Night Garden
2. In the Cities of Coin and Spice
Metamorphosis is the most profound of all acts.
A prince and a girl are sitting in the garden. Tattooed on her eyelids are the stories she tells: fantastical, magical, woven into each other, each more confusing than the last.
This is a retelling of The Arabian Nights – the only one I’ve found that truly captures the interlocking magic of the stories. Valente does write adult fantasy, but I fell in love with this series when I was 14 or 15 and it’s not explicit in any way. Reads like a collection of fairytales.
0.5. The Jinni
1. The Forbidden Wish
“You’re a—you’re a—”
Say it, boy. Demon of fire. Monster of smoke. Devil of sand and ash. Servant of Nardukha, Daughter of Ambadya, the Nameless, the Faceless, the Limitless. Slave of the Lamp. Jinni.
“. . . a girl!” he finishes.
I’m being a little disingenuous here, because The Forbidden Wish is essentially a standalone with a short prequel story, but I love this book so much I’m counting it as a ‘series’. It’s a retelling of Aladdin where he falls in love with Zahra, a four-thousand-year-old jinni trapped in the lamp. The amazing mythology and Zahra’s deep character really make the story. Her narrative voice, unlike many, sounds like an ancient character’s.
1. Grave Mercy
2. Dark Triumph
3. Mortal Heart
Why be the sheep when you can be the wolf?
The convent of St Mortain does not house ordinary nuns. Instead, they train women to be handmaidens of Death Himself, blessed with lethal gifts and turned out as assassins. Three friends – Ismae, Sybella, and Annith – navigate their roles as killers in this historical fantasy set in 15th century Brittany.
I thought the first two books were good, but for the record, the third is a complete letdown.
When a monster stopped behaving like a monster, did it stop being a monster? Did it become something else?
The Gracelings of the Realm are those gifted with particular abilities. In Katsa’s case, it’s the power to dole out death effortlessly, making her the king’s favoured assassin. Fire has the Grace of mind control. And Bitterblue, the new queen, must undo the terrible damages wrought by the old king’s Grace.
1. Northern Lights (The Golden Compass)
2. The Subtle Knife
3. The Amber Spyglass
We are all subject to the fates. But we must act as if we are not, or die of despair.
Brought to recent popularity by the great BBC adaptation. The series hardly needs introduction; it’s Pullman’s masterpiece, throwing around questions of death and life and religion and free will as we follow our child-heroine Lyra and her daemon Pantalaimon.
1. The Bone Doll’s Twin
2. Hidden Warrior
3. The Oracle’s Queen
In Skala warfare is a womanly thing.
Skala is a matriarchal society, ruled for 300 years by warrior queens. Then King Erius usurped his half-sister’s throne and killed all the royal females. But he missed one: Tobin, his niece, whose body has been transformed into that of a boy through dark magic. Haunted by her mother’s ghost and the vengeful spirit of her dead twin brother, Tobin comes of age and fights to reclaim her throne.
Tobin’s crush on a straight boy who does not know that she is female is very poignant.
1. We Set the Dark on Fire
2. We Unleash the Merciless Storm
If we’re not all free, none of us are free.
Daniela Vargas is the star student of the elite Medio School for Girls, where pupils are trained to look after their husbands’ homes and raise their children. But she doesn’t belong there: she comes from the lower classes, and her identification papers are forged. Her upcoming marriage to a politician’s son means she must keep her secret hidden to avoid returning to poverty. Why, then, is she risking everything to spy for a resistance group?
For more, try these other YA fantasy recommendations!