Science Fiction/Fantasy

8 of the Best Magical Cities in YA Books

Abigail Clarkin

Staff Writer

Abigail can often be found holding a book in one hand and an ice cream cone in the other. When she is not devouring stories (or dessert), Abigail trains for marathons and writes poetry about growing up with eight brothers and sisters. She enjoys working in marketing for a real estate developer and creating Instagram content for fun (@marathonandmunch) about all the tasty eats found in Providence, RI.

The City We Became, By N.K. Jemisin.

Three-time Hugo Award-winning and New York Times bestselling author N.K. Jemisin crafts her most incredible novel yet, a story of culture, identity, magic, and myths in contemporary New York City. Every great city has a soul. Some are ancient as myths, and others are as new and destructive as children. New York? She's got six. "It's a glorious fantasy, set in that most imaginary of cities, New York. It's inclusive in all the best ways, and manages to contain both Borges and Lovecraft in its fabric, but the unique voice and viewpoint are Jemisin's alone." -- Neil Gaiman

The cities of today are pumping with innovation, business, and the swift steps of their visitors and inhabitants. There is a sort of magic in modern cities, but nothing of this world can compare to the magical cities in YA books. Visit eight magical cities through some of the most fascinating and unique tales of fantasy.

Ketterdam in Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo

Home to brilliant young crime master Kaz Brekker, Ketterdam is rife with thievery and magic. People visit the capital city of Kerch to trade and stay to make their way in the dark of its underbelly—if they dare. Bardugo told the Los Angeles Times in an interview that Ketterdam is “a mix of the Dutch Republic, Amsterdam, Antwerp, old New York, Victorian London, Vegas.” Ketterdam also houses Grisha, those who have the power to control humans (dead or alive), the elements, or materials.

Ingridan in River of Secrets by Shannon Hale

Razo was raised in the forest. When he accompanies the ambassador from Bayern to the foreign city of Ingridan, he knows he’s out of his league. Left to wander the bright rivers and smooth streets, he stumbles over the first in a long string of murders. It is only Razo who can uncover what the waters hide.

Diamond CityKosín in Diamond City by Francesca Flores

In a city torn between the buzz of industrialization and the hum of ancient magic, a deadly girl sweeps through the streets with knives gripped in her hands. Technology belongs to the rich in Kosín and those who practice magic are punished severely (especially if found using or selling the raw diamonds required for blood magic). Good thing Aina, arguably the most powerful assassin in the city, stays far away from magic and diamond trading…Or so she’d like everyone to think.

Akaran in The Star-Touched Queen by Roshani Chokshi

Maya is queen over a quiet kingdom. The city is not at all what she expected when she married the mysterious Amar. She is pleasantly surprised by the beauty and glamour of a garden made entirely of glass, fruit and all. But she is not entirely sure that the truth behind her new husband’s identity, as well as the locked doors throughout the palace, will be quite as pleasant. In a piece for Hypable, Chokshi shares that “the palace is inspired by Mohabbat Maqbara in Junagadh.”

Velaris in A Court of Mist and Fury by Sarah J. Maas

Readers have to wait until the second book in Sarah J. Maas’s acclaimed fantasy trilogy to visit Velaris, the City of Starlight, but it’s well worth the trip. Velaris glitters with goodness as the people thrive with art, literature, and abundant food under the protection of their ruler. No one but those who live inside the city’s limits know of its existence; it is a secret safe haven amidst endless war. Feyre—a human in the world of fae—is tasked with not only figuring out who is worthy of her trust, but also keeping both the human and fae worlds from dissolving into a sea of hatred.

Glorian in Where Dreams Descend by Janella Angeles (June 2020)

Kallia is a powerful magician haunted with nightmares. She dares to look beyond the club where she performs her deadly, decadent magic tricks: to Glorian. In the frozen, sparkling city, she will compete against other magicians to join the illustrious “Conquering Circus.” Are there enough tricks up her sleeves for her to come out on top?

The Guinevere DeceptionCamelot in The Guinevere Deception by Kiersten White

Beyond a great lake rises the city of Camelot. Although the location of lore has been visited and revisited countless times throughout literature, never has the city been revealed by a young woman posing as Queen Guinevere. Armed with magic to protect King Arthur, Guinevere must stand between him and his people in an ancient place where magic is banned.

Hemaira in The Gilded Ones by Namina Forna (May 2020)

Deka’s blood runs gold. In a country where women have no rights, the only thing worse than being born female is to have blood that is not red. Faced with an immortal life spent hunted and tortured by both monster and man, Hemaira is her only hope. In Hemaira, the lush, green capital of the kingdom, Deka can join an elite guard made up entirely of girls like her. Can her future truly be as bright as the waters of Emeka’s Tears, the great waterfall? Or is she rushing towards an even worse fate than she left behind?

Yearning to visit more fantasy villages and magical cities in YA books? Check out 9 Solid Gold YA Fantasy Books from 2019.