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So You Want to Read Young Adult Fantasy: Here’s Where to Start

Young adult fantasy — much like the broader fantasy genre — is full of subgenres and wildly imaginative takes on classic tropes. There’s something here for readers of essentially any age, whether you’re looking for a simple escape, a complex tale of fantastical intrigue, or deeply rooted and thought provoking allegories. YA may have been our first introduction fantastical realms, nigh-impossible quests, and epic struggles between good and evil. There really is no better time to take a nostalgia-fueled trip back to the roots of your love of fantasy. The books below feature a few classics — vanguards of the current YA fantasy heavyweights — as well as a few more recent entries worth your attention.
  1. 1
    The Hobbit (Movie Tie-in Edition) Book Cover Picture
    The Hobbit (Movie Tie-in Edition) Book Cover Picture

    The Hobbit (Movie Tie-in Edition)

    by J.R.R. Tolkien

    Arguably the grandfather of YA fantasy, The Hobbit is most widely known as the prelude to The Lord of the Rings and the 300 page basis for a 462-minute trilogy of films. The tale of Bilbo Baggins and his unexpected stint as a burglar for a band of dwarves is the early forerunner to a host of YA fantasy reads.
    The Hobbit (Movie Tie-in Edition) Book Cover Picture
    The Hobbit (Movie Tie-in Edition) Book Cover Picture

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  2. 2
    The Golden Compass: His Dark Materials Book Cover Picture
    The Golden Compass: His Dark Materials Book Cover Picture

    The Golden Compass: His Dark Materials

    by Philip Pullman

    A masterwork of storytelling and suspense, Philip Pullman’s award-winning The Golden Compass is the first in the His Dark Materials series, which continues with The Subtle Knife and The Amber Spyglass.
    The Golden Compass: His Dark Materials Book Cover Picture
    The Golden Compass: His Dark Materials Book Cover Picture

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  3. 3
    Reign of the Fallen Book Cover Picture
    Reign of the Fallen Book Cover Picture

    Reign of the Fallen

    by Sarah Glenn Marsh

    Reign of the Fallen Book Cover Picture
    Reign of the Fallen Book Cover Picture

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  4. 4
    An Ember in the Ashes Book Cover Picture
    An Ember in the Ashes Book Cover Picture

    An Ember in the Ashes

    by Sabaa Tahir

    Under the Martial Empire, defiance is met with death. Those who do not vow their blood and bodies to the Emperor risk the execution of their loved ones and the destruction of all they hold dear. But when Laia’s brother is arrested for treason, Laia is forced to make a decision. In exchange for help from rebels who promise to rescue her brother, she will risk her life to spy for them from within the Empire’s greatest military academy.
    An Ember in the Ashes Book Cover Picture
    An Ember in the Ashes Book Cover Picture

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  5. 5
    Ash Princess Book Cover Picture
    Ash Princess Book Cover Picture

    Ash Princess

    by Laura Sebastian

    Theodosia was six when her country was invaded and her mother, the Fire Queen, was murdered before her eyes. On that day, the Kaiser took Theodosia’s family, her land, and her name. Theo was crowned Ash Princess–a title of shame to bear in her new life as a prisoner. For ten years, the Ash Princess has seen her land pillaged and her people enslaved. That all ends here.
    Ash Princess Book Cover Picture
    Ash Princess Book Cover Picture

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  6. 6
    Akata Warrior Book Cover Picture
    Akata Warrior Book Cover Picture

    Akata Warrior

    by Nnedi Okorafor

    Akata Warrior Book Cover Picture
    Akata Warrior Book Cover Picture

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  7. 7
    Forest of a Thousand Lanterns Book Cover Picture
    Forest of a Thousand Lanterns Book Cover Picture

    Forest of a Thousand Lanterns

    by Julie C. Dao

    Set in an East Asian-inspired fantasy world filled with both breathtaking pain and beauty, Forest of a Thousand Lanterns possesses all the hallmarks of masterful fantasy: dazzling magic, heartbreaking romance, and a world that hangs in the balance.
    Forest of a Thousand Lanterns Book Cover Picture
    Forest of a Thousand Lanterns Book Cover Picture

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  8. 8
    Flame in the Mist Book Cover Picture
    Flame in the Mist Book Cover Picture

    Flame in the Mist

    by Renée Ahdieh

    Flame in the Mist Book Cover Picture
    Flame in the Mist Book Cover Picture

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