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Historical Fiction

6 of the Best Medieval Young Adult 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.

Sword in the Stars, published by Jimmy Patterson Books.

In this epic sequel to Once & Future, Ari and her Rainbow knights must pull off a Holy Grail heist thousands of years in the past -- without destroying their own destinies. Ari and her cursed wizard Merlin must travel back in time to the unenlightened Middle Ages and steal the King Arthur's Grail -- the very definition of impossible. It's imperative that the time travelers not skew the timeline and alter the course of history. Coming face to face with the original Arthurian legend could produce a ripple effect that changes everything.

There’s something undeniably compelling about turning the pages to a time when chivalry and magic reigned. In tales of medieval lore, stories of knights, cauldrons, and betrayal fit like a well worn pair of deerskin boots. The middle ages is not confined to Camelot: young adult fiction ranges from raw views of warband brutality, to new worlds crafted after South Asian culture during the middle ages. Here’s a list of six medieval YA titles to pick up next.

The Guinevere DeceptionThe Guinevere Deception by Kiersten White

It is only natural that a tale about King Arthur be included in this list. Kiersten White reweaves the story of Queen Guinivere and asks new questions: What if the real foreign princess was secretly replaced with a young witch sworn to protect the king? What if she was raised by the wizard Merlin but her childhood memories are as murky as the waters crossed to enter Camelot? Follow Guinevere in a tale that twists deeper and darker with each chapter.

Sweet Black Waves by Kristina Pérez

While the countries of Kernyv and Iveriu are fictitious, Sweet Black Waves retells the medieval legend of Tristan and Iseult. Branwen is handmaiden to her cousin, the princess of Iveriu. Her heart also bears the weight of ancient magic and an unswerving love for her cousin and her country. Branwen’s abilities begin to swerve out of control as she falls in love with a prince from the rival country, and a journey across the sea brings a storm she might never escape.

Spindle and Dagger by J. Anderson Coats

Elen’s story is not an easy one: when she and her sisters are subjected to the horrors of a medieval warband, she saves herself the only way she knows how. By convincing Owain—the leader of the warband—that she holds the power to protect him from death, she makes herself invaluable. She also ensures she can never be free from the very man who slayed her family. Elen is smart and resilient. She is compassionate. When Owain kidnaps the wife and children of a man he hates, she has to decide whose side she is on. (Warning: this book very overtly deals with sexual assault.)

Flame in the Mist by Renée Ahdieh

Mariko has always been called curious and odd. When her caravan is attacked on her journey to wed one of the Emperor’s sons, her survival banks on her curiosity and oddness. She is clever, but is she more clever than what lurks in the forest? Inspired by Feudal Japan, this medieval tale follows Mariko as she cuts her hair, grabs her weapons, and infiltrates the most notorious rebel samurai group in the kingdom. (This is quite possibly my favorite medieval young adult book.)

Grave Mercy by Robin LaFeversGrave Mercy by Robin LaFevers

Looking for a reasonable way to escape an arranged marriage? Take a page out of the book Grave Mercy by Robin LaFevers and become an assassin who serves the god of death. Ismae is a 17-year-old in medieval France who refuses to live in fear. When she completes training at the St. Mortain convent, she is tasked with an impossible mission and sent into the belly of the beast: the courts of Brittany.

Hood by Jenny Elder Moke (June 2020)

Isabelle was raised by her mother, Marien, in the quiet priory of Kirklees. She is shocked when her mother tells her she is the daughter of the infamous Robin Hood. Armed with only this knowledge and her bow, she sets off with the Merry Men (and women) to find her father while eluding “the Wolf,” the king’s second hand man. The journey is unlike anything she’s ever known.

Want to read beyond medieval YA fiction? In need of even more fantasy reads? Check out 9 Solid Gold YA Fantasy Books from 2019.