Science Fiction/Fantasy

Magic and Monsters: 9 Dark YA Fantasy Books

Namera Tanjeem

Staff Writer

Namera is currently an English student at the University of Cambridge who loves romance novels, Harry Potter, true crime stories, and cats. You can find her over at her blog, The Literary Invertebrate. She can be contacted by email at

This list of YA fantasy books about monsters and magic is sponsored by Amazon Publishing, publisher of Smoke and Summons by Charlie N. Holmberg.

Her master turned her into a weapon. Now she plans to turn the tables. From Charlie N. Holmberg, the Wall Street Journal bestselling author of the Paper Magician Series, comes the first read in a captivatingly magical new series. Read Smoke and Summons today.




Since Mary Shelley’s novel Frankenstein (published all the way back in 1818), monster novels have been a firmly established part of the book-reading world. We see them as zombies, or aliens, or vampires. Sometimes there’s a scientific explanation. Sometimes their existence is simply attributed to ‘magic’. Now here below are a selection of nine YA novels from the latter category. These tales of magic and monsters are immensely popular – or deserve to be. Warning: the monster isn’t always who you might think…

9 great YA books about magic and monsters. Find your ideal dark fantasy. book lists | YA books | YA dark fantasy | books about magic | books about monsters | #YALit

Monster Girls and Monster Boys

Not Even Bones (Market of Monsters #1) by Rebecca Schaeffer

Nita and her mother kill monsters for a living, selling their parts to the highest bidder. But when she suffers an abrupt qualm and tries to save their latest victim, her mother does not take it well. Nita wakes up to find that she’s now on the market herself – trapped on the wrong side of the bars. You see…it turns out that she’s a monster too. Now, stuck in the middle of South America at the mercy of a monster boy who feeds on pain, there are very few lines she won’t cross to get home.

I was dying to get my hands on this one as soon as I read the blurb, and it did not disappoint! Nita is the perfect antiheroine – quite apart from being a supernatural creature, her hobby is dissection. This is one of the darkest, most fabulously unique YA books I’ve ever read. The characters here aren’t just literal monsters – they’re moral ones too.

Wicked Fox Book CoverWicked Fox (Gumiho #1) by Kat Cho

This one comes out on 25 June, and the blurb is awesome. Gu Miyoung is a Gumiho, a nine-tailed fox who feeds on the souls of human men; wandering the streets of Seoul, she eats criminals who have escaped punishment for their crimes. But when she falls in love with a human boy named Jihoon, she will have to make a difficult choice between love – and immortality.

Promise of Shadows by Justina Ireland

Zephyr Mourning is a terrible Harpy, more interested in TV than learning how to kill people. Also: she’s in hell. Literally. Sentenced to Tartarus for murder, Zephyr spends her days performing hard labour while human excrement rains down on her. But when she discovers that she can wield a power feared even by the gods, she’s forced to reevaluate her entire life. So it’s a good thing her childhood friend Tallon is there to help her, even if he has some dark secrets of his own.

This is a pretty interesting one. I wasn’t the biggest fan of the romance, but Zephyr isn’t a bad heroine and there are some good side characters.

Empress of All Seasons by Emiko Jean

As a yōkai – someone with the ability to transform into a monster – Mari’s ruthless mother has trained her for one purpose: to become the next Empress of Honoku. But it won’t be easy. She must compete against a host of other girls, meanwhile concealing her inner monster. Complicating things is the fact that Crown Prince Taro has no intention of being sold on the marriage mart to whichever girl wins the competition.

This Savage Song (Monsters of Verity #1) by Victoria Schwab

A famous one this time! In a dystopian city overrun by violence-born monsters, Kate and August have totally different ideas of what they want to be. She wants to as vicious as her father; he wants to be as kind as his father. Only…that intention would be a lot easier if he weren’t a monster himself, able to steal human souls through music. When August is sent by his father to watch Kate, the pair are forced to flee for their lives and make a number of difficult choices on who they really want to be.

Grim Lovelies (Grim Lovelies #1) by Megan Shepherd

The monsters here are Beasties: animals enchanted into being human, used as servants by powerful witches. Anouk is a Beastie, and knows nothing of life outside the four walls of the Parisian townhouse she serves in. But when her mistress is murdered – and Anouk is accused of the crime – she and her fellow Beasties have only three days to find the real killer. Otherwise, the spell keeping them human will fade and they’ll return to their animal forms.

I really liked this one. The premise is fascinating, even if the romance is weak, and the ending is brilliant.

Wicked Saints (Something Dark and Holy #1) by Emily A. Duncan

Out on 2 April. This was one of my most anticipated reads of 2019, and while it didn’t quite live up to my expectations, I’m certainly keen to see where it goes next.

Nadya is a holy cleric, able to speak to the gods. She’s from Kalyazin – a thinly veiled Russia – which has been locked into a holy war with their neighbour Travania for over a century. When the High Prince of Travania destroys the only home she’s ever known, she’s forced to ally with a monstrous enemy boy to put an end to the war.

I am Not a Serial Killer (John Cleaver #1) by Dan Wells

John Wayne Cleaver is obsessed with serial killers – and he knows that, if he lets himself off the leash, he’d become one too. So he lives his life by a rigid set of rules designed to stop him from becoming a murderer. Working in a mortuary is the only outlet he permits himself. But what if, in order to save everything he loves, he has to let his inner darkness out?

This book is great. It’s full of dark humour – in fact, it’s surprisingly funny, and the hero is weirdly lovable. You know, for a would-be serial killer. The fantasy element here is a bit weird, though.

Cracked (Soul Eaters #1) by Eliza Crewe

Meda eats people. Well, she eats their souls…but only the ones belonging to bad guys. When she’s rescued from a sticky situation by a group of crusaders dedicated to wiping out her kind, she realises that her best bet for staying alive is to play along with them. Pretending not to be a soul eater is alright, even if she’s getting hungrier with each passing day. It’s just too bad that she’s becoming attached to people who’d kill her if they only knew what she was.

Meda was wonderfully snarky, and it’s always great to see an unashamedly bad-girl heroine in YA books.

Honourable Mention

…Goes to Laini Taylor’s Daughter of Smoke and Bone, because come on.

I hope you enjoy these recommendations!