20 Must-Read YA Fantasy Standalones

This content contains affiliate links. When you buy through these links, we may earn an affiliate commission.

Hannah VanVels

Staff Writer

Hannah VanVels is a literary agent, editor, and writer. Her life is consumed by all things books, and when she’s not working on books, she can usually be found curled up with a good book and a good cup of coffee. Hannah lives in Michigan with her partner, two German shepherds, and two cats.

We totally get it. You love your epic YA fantasy series, but sometimes you feel a bit like a commitmentphobe. Starting a series can take time and some serious investment. The good news? We’ve got a lineup of 20 great YA fantasy standalones that shine all on their own. If you’re looking for your next YA fantasy read but don’t want to commit to a series, check out some of these great standalone titles.

The Bird and the Blade by Megan Bannon

A retelling of the opera “Turandot” set within the Mongol Empire during the 13th century, The Bird and the Blade is a gut-wrenching historical fantasy that will likely rip your heart out. Jinghua has lost her home, her family, and her freedom. But when her kingdom is conquered, Jinghua finds herself an unlikely conspirator in the escape of the prince and his father.

Four Dead Queens by Astrid Scholte

A murder mystery fantasy with shocking twists and turns, murder, and mayhem? Sign us right up! Keralie makes her living as a pickpocket, and she steals a mysterious video from the messenger, Varin Bollt. The video shows the four queens of the kingdom being murdered, and suddenly Keralie’s life is turned upside down. She teams up with Varin, who is keeping secrets of his own, and together they try to uncover the murderer of the four dead queens.

Descendant of the Crane CoverDescendant of the Crane by Joan He

Set in a fictional kingdom inspired by China, Descendant of the Crane is full of lush world-building and even lusher characters. Princess Hesina has always been eager to shy away from her responsibilities to the crown. But when her father is killed, suddenly the power is all hers. Desperate to find her father’s killer and restore balance to her unstable kingdom, Hesina turns to a soothsayer. Except that magic was outlawed in her kingdom centuries ago, and Hesina isn’t sure who she can trust. Can she find justice for her father? Or will the cost be too high?

Daughter of the Burning City By Amanda Foody

Wicked, wicked to the core. The city will burn forevermore. In a traveling carnival filled with debauchery, Sorina is an illusion-worker. She can create lifelike illusions that can be seen, felt, and even touched. Her creations are her family, and they make up the carnival’s Freak Show. But her illusions are just realistic figments of her imagination…or so she thought. But then one of them is murdered, and Sorina needs to figure out who the killer is and how they killed someone who doesn’t actually exist.

Girls Made of Snow and Glass by Melissa Bashardoust

A dark feminist fantasy take on Snow White. Yes, please! Mina is motherless, and her father is a magician. Unbeknownst to her, her father has cut out Mina’s heart and replaced it with one of glass. She sets out for the castle with the aim of winning the king’s heart. The catch? She’ll have to become a stepmother.

Lynet looks just like her late mother the queen. In fact, she was created out of snow in her image, by order of her father. When the king makes Lynet queen over the southern territories, she displaces her stepmother Mina. Can Lynet and Mina reshape their own story before they lose everything?

Sorcery of Thrones By Margaret Rogerson

After reading Margaret Rogerson’s An Enchantment of Ravens, we couldn’t wait to dive into her sophomore book. Orphaned teen Elisabeth was raised in a great library and has known that sorcerers are evil for as long as she can remember. The library she’s grown up in has one of the greatest tools of sorcery: magical grimoires that transform into monsters. When the most dangerous grimoires is released from the library, the blame falls on Elisabeth, and she begins to question everything she’s been taught. And discovers greater than she could have ever imagined.

The Grace Year by Kim Ligget

Girls on the edge of womanhood are told they have the power to lure men from their beds and drive women mad with jealousy. So they are banished for their 16th year to release this magic into the wild and return purified and ready for marriage. But not all of the girls will make it home alive. The Handmaid’s Tale meets Lord of the Flies in this darkly haunting contemporary fantasy.

The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater

This amazing fantasy is a bit of an oldie, but a goodie! The Scorpio Races happen at the beginning of November every year. Riders try to keep control of their water horses long enough to make it to the finish line. But not everyone survives. Sean is the returning champion of the races. He keeps his words close and his secrets closer. Puck, the first girl to ever ride in the races, was never meant to participate. But fate doesn’t give her a choice.

Sawkill Girls by Claire LeGrandSawkill Girls by Claire Legrand

On the island of Sawkill Rock, there is rumored to be an insidious monster that preys on young women called The Collector. Girls have been disappearing for decades on the island, and no one seems to have any idea why. Marion, Zoey, and Val’s fates come together as they must figure out what is killing these girls…and how to stop it from happening to them next. This speculative horror honestly made us lose some sleep!

To Best the Boys Mary Weber

Every year, a mysterious invitation goes out, calling all the boys of Pinsbury Port to compete for a scholarship to a prestigious university. Sixteen-year-old Rhen wants nothing more to be a scientist. The only problem is that women are supposed to train in wifely duties instead. But when her mother succumbs to a mysterious disease, Rhen and her cousin Seleni take matters into their own hands. Disguised, they enter the all-boys competition. But not everyone survives the labyrinth.

beneath-the-citadel-cover from 2018 Bisexual YA Books BookRiot.comBeneath the Citadel by Destiny Soria

Friendship dynamics, LGBTQ characters, prophecies, and political intrigue had us swooning over this story! Ancient prophecies rule over the people of the city of Eldra. These prophecies keep the high council in power, but after the last prophecy comes to pass, a rebellion rages for years. Cassa is the orphaned daughter of rebels and is determined to fight against the high council. Together with her friends, Cassa struggles with the legacy of the rebellion and to shoulder the burden of uncovering the mystery of the final prophecy.

Promise of Shadows by Justina Ireland

Zephyr Mourning is a regular teenaged girl…except she’s only half human. Zephyr is a Harpy, though she’d much rather watch television than learn how to kill a man to be honest, and she’s not that great at wielding her magic. But when her sister is murdered, Zephyr used a dark magic to save herself. Now she’s on the run from a punishment worst than death, and it seems that she is destined for a fate she never wanted. Except that she will have to learn how to take care of herself before she can save the rest of the world.

A History of Glitter and Blood By Hannah Moskowitz

When war breaks out in Ferrum, Beckan and her friends are the only fairies brave enough to stick around. But when they are forced into the gnome underworld to survive, Beckan finds herself struggling between staying loyal to her friends, her desire for peace, and unexpected love. A History of Glitter and Blood is beautiful and unapologetically queer fantasy that gave us all the feels.

Huntress by Malindo Lo

Nature is out of balance, and strange creatures have started to appear in the human kingdom. Kaede and Taisin are picked to go on a dangerous quest to the city of the Fairy Queen in the hopes of fixing this crisis. Along the way, they face unearthly attacks and fairy tricks and a love neither of them expected. Huntress is the prequel to Ash.

forest of a thousand lanterns daoForest of A Thousand Lanterns by Julie C. Dao

In mystical East Asian fantasy retelling of Snow White and the Huntsmen, peasant girl Xifeng is destined to be the Empress of Feng Lu. But to pay the price for the throne, Xifeng must embrace the darkness inside her, spurn the man who loves her, and fuel her sorcery by eating the hearts of the recently killed. If you’re looking for a complex antihero, this is one you won’t want to miss!

Empress of All Seasons by Emiko Jean

In Honoku, once a generation, a competition is held to find the next empress. All it takes is to survive the enchanted rooms of Spring, Summer, Fall, and Winter. Mari has spent her whole life training to become the empress but hides a dangerous secret that, if found out, not only will disqualify her from the contest but will also get her killed.

Cover of The Library of Fates by Aditi KhoranaThe Library of Fates by Aditi Khorana

It’s no secret that libraries are our jam here at Book Riot. And the library in The Library of Fates is one that has the power to change fates. Princess Amrita has offered herself up as a bride to the Emperor in the hopes to keep her kingdom safe from his violent conquests. But when the palace comes under siege, Amrita finds herself alone and a fugitive. She sets out to find the legendary Library of All Things, where maybe, just maybe she may be able to reverse her fate and the fate of her kingdom before all is lost.

Undead Girl Gang by Lily Anderson

Veronica Mars meets The Craft in this contemporary fantasy. Mila Flores is just your regular teenaged Wiccan with Doc Martens and an attitude. But when three classmates suspiciously die in an alleged suicide pact, Mila isn’t buying it. Mila does the unthinkable to uncover the truth: she brings the girls back to life. The girls have seven days until the spell wears off to solve their murders…before the killer strikes again.

The Sound of Stars by Alechia Dow

A girl who risks her life for books and an alien who loves forbidden pop music team up to save the world. Swoon! A misunderstanding between Earth and the invading Ilori aliens killed off a third of the world’s population. Humans have been deemed volatile, books, music, and art are illegal, and 17-year-old Ellie carries a big secret that could be the grounds for her execution.

Labyrinth Lost by Zoraida Cordova

The Brooklyn Brujas series follows three witch sisters as they develop their powers and battle magic in their own hometown and beyond! Each book can be read alone, but we definitely couldn’t stop with just the first book! Alex is the most powerful witch in her family, but she’s hated magic ever since it made her father disappear into thin air. Alex performs a curse to try to rid herself of magic, but her family vanishes instead and Alex absorbs her family’s power. As Alex tries to bring her family back, she discovers more than she ever thought possible about herself, her magic, and her family.

What are some of your favorite YA fantasy standalone titles?