Want the best fantasy books for teens? Here’s a breakdown of the fantasy ya books you need on your reading list.
For the longest time, I used to tell everyone that I didn’t like fantasy books. Yet, the longer I blog about books, the more I realize that isn’t true.
While adult fantasy will likely never be my favorite genre, I do find something so compelling about fantasy teen books.
With fantasy ya, you are reminded that even an ordinary person like you might be called on to save the world. The best young adult fantasy novels paint creative new worlds with enticing possibilities … and just the right amount of romance.
If you are a parent looking for fantasy ya books for your child, just be warned that this list spans from fantasy books for 12 year olds to fantasy books for older teens. I’ve tried to mention which books fall on the extreme ends of these spectrums, but I’d advise researching each title to make sure the book is appropriate for your child.
Best Fantasy YA Books
Zélie Adebola watched as a ruthless king ordered the death of her mother and all the other maji to rid the world of magic. With one last chance, Zélie must use the help of a rogue princess to restore magic before the crown prince manages to eradicate magic for good. Beautifully blending Nigerian mythology, symbols from the Yoruba religion, and young adult fantasy, Tomi Adeyemi shines in her debut novel and the perfect example of fantasy YA books.
Sarah J. Maas
After spending a year of hard labor for her crimes, 18-year-old assassin Celaena Sardothien is taken before the Crown Prince. He wants Celaena to be his champion in a competition to find a new royal assassin. If she wins, she’ll be granted her freedom after four years of service. As Celaena trains with the gruff Captain of the Guard and catches the eye of the Crown Prince, she must use all her strength to fight off her competitors and all her wits to discover who is murdering contestants.
Enter the Grishaverse in Leigh Bardugo’s debut novel, which set up the world for all of her subsequent young adult fantasy novels. The once-great kingdom of Ravka has been split in two by the Shadow Fold, an impenetrable realm of shadow and monsters dividing the kingdom. When patrolling the border, Alina Starkov is surprised to discover inherself a hidden magical ability and finds herself whisked away to train with the Grisha, the kingdom’s magical elite. For Alina might be the only one who can save the kingdom, if she can learn to understand the Grisha … and her own heart.
Stolen away by her parents’ murderer, twin sisters Jude and Taryn are raised among the magical folk of the fairy world. Being a mere mortal, Jude suffers under the senseless cruelty of the other young adults – especially the cruel Prince Cardan. Now, with the King of the Faeries abdicating his throne for one of his children, Jude is swept up into the complicated intrigue of court life. For its political machinations and young adult drama, The Cruel Prince is one of the best ya fantasy books of recent years.
A genetic twist of fate has split mankind into two castes. The Silvers are the ruling elite, with superhuman powers coursing through their silver-blooded veins. On the other hand, the regular red-blooded humans live as expendable commoners. While working at the Palace, Mare Barrow accidentally discovers she has unimaginable power, stronger than most Silvers. Can she successfully pass as a lost Silver princess or will she be discovered as a spy for the Red resistance movement?
In this light-hearted Young Adult fantasy, Scarlett Dragna imploringly writes letters each year for tickets to Caraval – a once-a-year performance/carnival where the audience gets to join in on the fun. When her sister whisks her away to enjoy just one night of Caraval, Scarlett is dragged into a journey of love, magic, and mystery.
Recent YA Fantasy Books
Andromeda is a debtera, an exorcist who cleanses households of the Evil Eye. When her mentor abandons her before she receives her license, she is forced to only work for wealthy patrons. Desperate, she accepts a job from a wealthy young heir, Magnus Rochester, that ends up being far beyond her skill level and highly dangerous. Yet Andromeda won’t quit like all the other debtera, because even if she could die, she’s fallen in love with Magnus.
Kylie Lee Baker
Half British Reaper, half Japanese Shinigami, Ren Scarborough has been collecting souls in London for centuries. When her Shinigami ways get her kicked out of London by the Reapers, Ren seeks acceptance in Japan with the Goddess of Death. Hoping to finally belong, she accepts a task to kill three dangerous demons, desperate to prove her worth and earn a place at Death’s side.
Already set apart by her unnatural intuition, sixteen-year-old Deka is considered an outcast when her blood runs gold. Instead of being an outcast, she decides to leave her village and join an elite band of powerfully magical girls to fight for the emperor. Among one of the best fantasy ya in 2021, The Gilded Ones is a great choice to add to your reading list.
Laura Sebastian’s feminist Arthurian retelling ponders how far a woman will go to change fate. Elaine of Shallot has been blessed (cursed?) with the ability to see the ancient prophecies surrounding her and her friends – most of them tragic. When Elaine, Guinevere, Lancelot, and Morgana accompany Arthur to Camelot at the start of his reign, the prophecies begin to come true and Elaine must decide how much stock to place in fate.
Every seven years, nine Greek gods are stripped of their powers and hunted as mortals. Whoever kills a god can claim their power and immortality. Lore Perseous had left that world behind after her family’s murder. When a childhood friend and the god Athena both approach her for help with the hunt, she decides it might be time to avenge her family.
Bestselling Fantasy Books for Teens
Leigh Bardugo’s heist novel, part of her Grishaverse, is often considered one of the best young adult fantasy novels out there. Kaz Brekker is particularly familiar with the criminal underground of Ketterdam and won’t pass up a chance at a heist that will make him rich beyond his wildest dreams. All he needs to do is assemble a team of unscrupulous misfits, and hope they don’t kill each other before securing their prize.
Lei, a typical country girl, is selected along with eight other girls to be a Paper Girl, the King’s consorts. Although Lei may be from the paper caste, she has a heart of fire. Instead of succumbing to her fate, she will fight for her rights to love and to be her own person.
With their dark cloaks and shadowy ways, the Rangers have always terrified Will. Some say they practice magic that makes them invisible. When Will is chosen as a Ranger’s apprentice, he finds they are the protectors of the kingdom, and the kingdom desperately needs protecting. For the exiled Morgorath is amassing forces to retake the kingdom in this fun series of fantasy novels for young adults.
In Laini Taylor’s bestselling YA fantasy novel, dreams choose the dreamer. War orphan and junior librarian Lazlo Strange suspects his dream choose poorly. He can’t stop dreaming about the lost city of Weep. When Lazlo meets a band of warriors led by the legendary Godslayer, he seizes his chance to find Weep and learn its secrets.
In a brutal world inspired by ancient Rome where any act of defiance signals death, Laia and her impoverished family know to keep their heads down. When Laia’s brother is arrested for treason, in exchange for his freedom, Laia agrees to act as a spy for the rebels at the Empire’s military academy. There she meets Elias, the Empire’s most renowned warrior, and learns she is not the only one who despises the Empire.
Charlie N. Holmberg
Holmberg’s debut will charm you with its stunning creativity. After graduating from the School for the Magically Inclined, Ceony Twill is disappointed to find herself apprenticed to a paper magician. Just as the kindness of Magician Emery Thane begins to win her over, a dark magician attacks. Now, Ceony must embark on an epic adventure to save Thane’s soul.
In 1889, Parisian treasure-hunter Séverin Montagnet-Alarie is hired to retrieve an ancient artifact for the Order of Babel, a powerful secret society that has refused Séverin’s claim at membership. Now he must ally himself with a diverse group of experts – an engineer, a historian, a dancer, and his lovable brother. Will they find the object and return Séverin to his rightful heritage? Or will they die trying?
In the first book in a new series of teen fantasy books, Fable follows a seventeen-year-old girl who spends her whole life at sea as part of her father’s trading empire. After her mother drowns in a storm, Fable is abandoned on an island of thieves by her father. Desperate to return to her rightful place among her father’s crew, Fable enlists the help of West, a young trader who isn’t who he seems.
At Scholomance, a cutthroat school of magic, students are expected to graduate or die. The main rule: don’t ever walk the hallways alone for monsters lurk everywhere. When El begins to learn the school’s secrets, she thinks she can rid the school of monsters. Unfortunately, her powerful magic might accidentally rid the school of students, too.
Imaginative YA Fantasy
One of the best-known young adult fantasy books is Pullman’s tale of the battle between good and evil. After her best friend disappears, Lyra vows to save him and the other children who have been taken by the Gobblers. Along with her animal companion, Lyra sets out to the far North where her uncle is building a bridge to a parallel world.
When he finds a blue stone in the forest, Eragon just hopes to sell it to feed his family. He never imagines that it would become a hatchling dragon and that he would be thrust into a world of magic and power. With only the advice of an old storyteller, Eragon and his dragon must try to take up the mantle of the lost Dragon Riders even as the evil King sets out to destroy them.
Redwall Abbey has long been a refuge for the peace-loving mice and any woodland creatures that need assistance. When Redwall is threatened by a savage band of rats led by Cluny the Scourge, a young apprentice mouse sets out on a journey to find a legendary lost weapon. Along with his loyal woodland friends, Matthias must find the courage to save Redwall in this delightful fantasy series.
In Agnieszka’s quiet village, life is peaceful though the shadow of the corrupt Wood surrounds the town. A powerful wizard known as the Dragon keeps the darkness at bay: for a price. Every ten years, the Dragon claims a young woman from the village as his servant. The next choosing is fast approaching and Agnieska is so terrified her beautiful best friend will be chosen that she is unprepared to be his selection in this imaginative fantasy ya book.
Cursed with a poisonous touch, Princess Soraya has been hidden away for her entire life. With her brother’s wedding approaching, she is tempted to seek out the answers to her freedom. She must decide whether to come out of hiding and whether she wants to be a monster or a princess. The cover art alone would earn this young adult fantasy a spot on any to-read list.
Medieval YA Fantasy Novels
As niece to the King, Katsa should be living a privileged life. However, in her kingdom, she is one of the rare people to be graced with a special ability – in her case, the killing grace. Trained up as the king’s assassin, Katsa is fierce and independent. When she falls in love with the beautiful Prince Po, Katsa learns a secret that could destroy the seven kingdoms. Graceling is one of the best ya fantasy books for older teens.
Prince Maxon needs a bride, so it’s time for the Selection. From around the realm, thirty-five girls are chosen to compete for his hand. After breaking up with her boyfriend, America reluctantly enters the competition. She has no desire to marry Prince Maxon until a chance meeting sparks a friendship between the two. Now, America must navigate her feelings for Maxon and her ex, all while rebels constantly threaten the Palace.
Jennifer A. Nielsen
In a kingdom on the brink of civil war, Connor, a wealthy nobleman, devises a scheme to train up an impersonator of the king’s long-lost son and use him as a puppet prince. Connor recruits four young orphans and brings them to his palace, determined to train them up before selecting one to play the prince. Wary of Connor’s motives, Sage must use all his wits to beat out his competitors in Connor’s game without overplaying his hand.
Megan Whalen Turner
Among the best fantasy ya books for adventure-loving young teens is The Queen’s Thief series. Sitting in the King’s prison is a young thief named Gen who claims he can steal anything. So the king and his Magus put him to the test, needing him to steal a treasure that will let the King control other lands. But Gen has an agenda of his own, and it’s anyone’s guess which side he is on.
A quiet mountain town is shocked when the king’s priests divine that it is the home of the next princess. Thus, an academy is formed to train all the young women in preparation for the prince selecting one of them as his bride in one year. Torn between wanting to be chosen and wanting to stay, Miri must unite the competitive teenagers when a band of rebels threatens the academy. If you want young adult fantasy books for younger teens, then Princess Academy is an excellent choice.
With magic waiting to reclaim Camelot, Merlin decides to send the powerful Princess Guinevere to wed King Author and keep him safe. For Guinevere is not who she seems. She’s a changeling who has sacrificed everything for Camelot, and Author must never know. Full of political machinations, forbidden romances, and magical threats, The Guinevere Deception is a fun Arthurian retelling for teens.
In every generation on the island of Fennbirn is a set of triplets – three queens with magical abilities with equal rights to the crown. On the night the sisters turn sixteen, the battle begins and the last one standing wins the crown. Who will win: fierce Mirabella, delicate Katharine, or tom-boy Arsinoe? Full of political machinations and strong female characters, Three Dark Crowns is a great choice if you love fantasy ya.
Popular Teenage Fantasy Books
In the first book of The Mortal Instruments series, Clary Fray goes to a club not expecting to witness a murder – a murder only she can see. When her mother disappears and she is attacked by a demon, Clary is thrust into the world of the Shadowhunters – a society dedicated to protecting the world from demons. Clary must work with Jace, a gorgeous but cruel Shadowhunter, to discover why demons are interested in her.
Of course, you can’t have a list of fantasy books for teens without mentioning the popular Twilight series. In the woods of Washington, Bella Swan can’t help obsessing over a beautiful boy at her new school. Edward Cullen seems to have eyes that peer straight into her soul, and she falls deeply in love with him, even though he is a vampire. Despite its poor writing and annoying protagonist, Meyer’s fantasy books made a generation of teens (and adults) swoon over its forbidden romance.
After her mother’s death, sixteen-year-old Bree Matthews sees the summer residential program at UNC-Chapel Hill as a perfect escape from the memories that haunt her at home. Yet, on the first night, she witnesses a demon feeding on human energies. When a mage tries to erase Bree’s memories of the attack, he accidentally unlocks her magical powers and memories from her mother’s death. As Bree infiltrates the secret student society to find answers, she must decide how far she is willing to go for the truth.
One of the most popular fantasy books for teens is Ransom Riggs’s unique young adult series that mixes vintage photography with fantastical storytelling. Jacob never quite believed his grandfather’s outlandish tales of a magical orphanage. When Jacob starts having nightmares about the stories, his parents send him to the remote island in Wales to show him that there is nothing to fear. Instead, he meets a collection of peculiar and potentially dangerous children caught in a time loop.
Roseanne A. Brown
Fleeing his war-torn hometown, Malik hopes to use the Solastia festival as cover to resettle in the desert city of Ziran with his sisters. When Malik’s sister Nadia is taken as payment for entrance into the city, Malik makes a deadly vow to kill Crown Princess Karina for Nadia’s freedom. Karina has promised to marry the victor of the Solastia festival – planning to kill him to resurrect her mother. Set on a path to destroy each other, Karina and Malik refuse to let an unexpected attraction hinder their plans.
Fantasy YA Based on Fairy Tales
Two hundred years after Cinderella met her prince at the ball, the Annual Ball is now a tradition in the land. Yet, at this ball, girls are paraded in their finery to be selected as brides for the men of the kingdom. Since she would rather marry her best friend Erin than Prince Charming, Sophia runs from the ball and finds herself face-to-face with one of Cinderella’s descendants determined to take down the king.
Marissa Meyer invents an imaginative backstory for the Queen of Hearts in her young adult fantasy novel. Catherine dreams of opening a bakery with her best friend but her hopes seem to be dashed when the unmarried King of Hearts sets his eyes on her. When Catherine falls for the mysterious Court Jester, she tries to take her fate into her own hands.
When a tornado picks her up and lands her in Oz, Amy Gumm doesn’t know what to think. It’s nothing like the books or the movies. Good witches can’t be trusted and bad witches are actually the good guys. Everything is falling apart, and it’s all Dorothy’s fault. Recruited by the Revolutionary Order of the Wicked, Amy is sent on a mission to kill Dorothy in this fun Wizard of Oz retelling.
In a retelling of Beauty and the Beast, Brigid Kemmerer takes a foray into fantasy YA. Due to a curse, Prince Rhen is forced to relive the autumn of his 18th year over and over again until he can get a girl to fall in love with him. Except at the end of each fall, he turns into a vicious beast. Is Harper Lacy – the often underestimated girl with cerebral palsy sucked into the kingdom from Washington, D.C. – the one to break the spell? And is there more at work than just a curse?
Alice has never quite understood the obsessive nature of the superfans of her grandmother’s series of dark fairy tales. After her grandmother dies, Alice’s mother is stolen away by one such fan, claiming to be from the Hinterland, the supernatural world her grandmother created. Now Alice must explore her grandmother’s estate, The Hazel Wood, and discover the truth behind the fairy tales to bring her mother home.
What are your favorite fantasy ya books to read?