I love big, sprawling, fantasy series as much as anyone. But for the past few years, I’ve also been craving more self-contained stories that don’t demand as much time and attention from me. Which is why I began reading standalones — and let me say that they are more than capable of telling complete and detailed stories with well-developed characters despite the shorter format. In fact, that’s exactly what makes them great reads for both fantasy newbies and genre veterans. We covered adult fantasy standalones recently here at Book Riot. So today I’m going to focus on standalone YA fantasy books.
A few things before we get to these amazing books. For today’s list, I chose eight great books with different kinds of fantasy elements. From mythology retellings, to mermaids, golems, witches, and even exorcists. There’s a book for everyone on this list! Plus, I chose to focus on more recent releases — the oldest one being from mid 2020. That’s because, now more than ever, standalone YA fantasy books are thankfully full of non-Western, non-white, and non-cis characters and settings. Which is something I wanted to focus on today.
So without further ado, let’s dive into eight great standalone YA fantasy books that are absolutely worth reading.
8 Standalone YA Fantasy Books You Should Read
A Thousand Steps into Night by Traci Chee
Let’s kick things off with a Japanese-inspired fantasy! A Thousand Steps into Night follows Miuko, an ordinary girl who lives in the fantastical realm of Awara. She has resigned herself to an uneventful life, but everything changes when Miuko is cursed. She’s slowly becoming a demon now, so Miuko embarks on an epic and adventurous quest to reverse her curse. As Miuko’s story moves forward, she’ll realize that the whole thing has a bright side — and that her old and ordinary life no longer fits her.
From Dust, a Flame by Rebecca Podos
Mythology is a big part of this list, so we’re moving on to an epic standalone YA fantasy book imbued with Jewish folklore. From Dust, a Flame is the story of Hannah. On her 17th birthday, she wakes up to find her body has started to transform. Her mother leaves her and her brother Gabe in order to find a cure for this curse, but she never comes back. So now it’s up to Hannah and Gabe to find out the truth. This involves getting to know their tragic and magical family history.
The Girl Who Fell Beneath the Sea by Axie Oh
Have you ever read a Korean mythology retelling? I certainly hadn’t, which is why I love that The Girl Who Fell Beneath the Sea exists! The story follows a girl named Mina. She took Shim Cheong’s place as the latest sacrifice for the Sea God. This is because her homeland is looking for the deity’s “true bride,” hoping it will put an end to the deadly storms that attack them each year. Swept away to the Spirit Realm, Mina discovers that the Sea God is trapped in an enchanted sleep. So she sets out on a quest to wake him and save her village once and for all.
A Song Below Water by Bethany C. Morrow
Next comes a magical book about mermaids! A Song Below Water follows Tavia, who is forced to hide the fact that she’s a siren. At least Tavia has her BFF Effie, who helps her navigate the ups and downs of being one of the few Black, magical, folk in Portland. But their whole lives are turned upside down when an internet celebrity, who also happened to be a siren, is murdered. To make things worse, Tavia’s powers are revealed in front of the police. As everyone’s secrets come to light, no one will be safe anymore.
Lost in the Never Woods by Aiden Thomas
The next standalone YA fantasy book is also a retelling, but in this case it reimagines the classic story of Peter Pan. Lost in the Never Woods follows Wendy Darling and her two brothers. All three siblings went missing five years ago under mysterious circumstances, and only Wendy was found. Her past was all but forgotten, until children start to go missing again — and Wendy almost runs over an unconscious and somehow familiar boy who goes by the name of Peter. Together, they set out to find the children before it’s too late.
The Witchery by S. Isabelle
Moving on to a super fun and witchy standalone! The Witchery begins with Logan, a newbie witch, starting a new school year at Mesmortes Coven Academy. There, she’s taken in by the Red Three: Iris, Jailah, and Thalia. It’s great that Logan has found a new coven, for Haunting Season is here and Wolves will be free to feed on the townsfolk. This curse has plagued the citizens of Haelsford for ages, so the newly formed coven sets out on a mission to find a cure and put an end to the terrors of the Wolves once and for all.
Jade Fire Gold by June CL Tan
Jade Fire Gold is an action-packed and romantic fantasy standalone that pays homage to the Xianxia novel. The story follows two characters named Ahn and Altan. Ahn has no past and no memories, while Altan is a lost heir whose future was stolen from him. Their meeting will change their lives forever and set them on an epic quest. For Altan sees Ahn as a path to taking back the throne — and Ahn thinks Altan is the key to understanding her past and her own magical abilities.
Within These Wicked Walls by Lauren Blackwood
Last but not least, Lauren Blackwood said let’s take Jane Eyre and make it magic. Which sounds weird but absolutely works! Within These Wicked Walls follows Andromeda, a debtera (or exorcist) looking for her next job. Enter Magnus Rochester, who hires her to rid his house of the Evil Eye. Soon after Andromeda arrives at his castle, she realizes that this job isn’t like the rest. Magnus is clearly hiding something, and the evil that lurks behind the walls is unlike any other she’s faced. But she’s also full of burning desire, and she won’t leave Mr. Rochester alone with his curse.