YA Book Reviews by Amy: Fantastic Fantasy
This week I wanted to highlight my favorite YA fantasy novels. I have loved the fantasy genre ever since I first watched The Lord of the Rings when I was in middle school. My father helped support this new passion by sharing his favorite fantasy series: Dragonlance. My family went to a medieval fair, and my friends and I used to make bows out of tree branches and cloaks out of old clothes. Fantasy was a big part of my past and made me into the reader I am today.
Fantasy is such an interesting genre because there are so many subgenres included. The subgenre I will focus in this blog will be whether the book is high fantasy or low fantasy; the difference usually lies in the setting. High fantasy is in a fictional setting that is not a part of the ‘real’ world: Middle-earth, Westeros, Discworld, etc. High fantasy usually includes a magical aspect. Low fantasy has unrealistic aspects in our ordinary world. Examples of low fantasy include Harry Potter and the His Dark Materials series (The Golden Compass). I tend to enjoy high fantasy more, but one book on this list in low fantasy.
Each title is available through our collection with the OverDrive or Libby App. Check it out or place a hold!
Escape into these different worlds with me!
The Gilded Wolves– Roshani Chokshi
Based in 1889 Paris, a group of misfit characters seek out the inheritance of Séverin who has been excluded from the four most powerful families. An heir of one of the four families offers to restore the inheritance in exchange for the group using their skills to retrieve a magical object. Clues of the old artifact lead the team to a treasure hunt with a mysterious and deadly secret society on their heels. Supernatural events and magic occur the further they delve into the unground city of Paris and infiltrate the city’s elite.
In my opinion, this is the YA equivalent of the movie National Treasure; a fun heist read that involves treasure hunting. The characters are diverse, relatable, and likable; I found myself loving Enrique and Zofia.
The Gilded Wolves is the only book on this list that is considered low fantasy because it takes place in historical France, but there is a magic aspect with the treasure and our characters’ abilities.
Fire– Kristin Cashore
Fire is considered a monster in her land; she has the ability to control the minds of humans and is irresistible to look at. Fire leads her life in fear not wanting to be the monster her father was, but when the young King becomes the leader of the Dells there is unrest in the country. Prince Brigan enlists Fire to help uncover the dastardly plot that may kill the king.
You can also read and enjoy Cashore’s companion series: Graceling and Bitterblue; these books are in the same world as Fire. There is a slight spoiler if you decide to read Fire before Graceling. This is a fantastic step into fantasy for newcomers to the genre.
Girl of Fire and Thorns– Rae Carson
Seen as the spare, Elisa is the younger of two princesses and was never supposed to have done anything of prominence until she is forced to become the wife of a king from another country. Elisa exhibits some magic that could make her an important player in the politics of the surrounding countries. Her life may be in danger when traveling to her future home when she is taken hostage by rebels. Elisa must survive and become a strong queen on her own.
This series expresses self-doubt to self-acceptance. Elisa has a physical journey, but also a spiritual one to becoming who she was meant to be. You can continue on reading the trilogy with Crown of Embers and The Bitter Kingdom. Also, Rae Carson just released a companion book called Empire of Dreams that takes place years later in the same fantasy world.
Strange the Dreamer– Laini Taylor
Lazlo has dreamt about going to the mythical and lost city of Weep since he can remember. Working as a librarian, Lazlo has the opportunity to travel with a group of explorers willing to travel to the lost city for the first time in centuries. He is seen as strange by his company, but he is useful to their needs to survive.
A family of demi-gods has been trapped in a tower for their own safety for years because they should not exist according to the townspeople of Weep. With incredible powers, this group of teens must not interact with outsiders. Sarai, who has the power to enter dreams, has connected to Lazlo, sending him on a different path from the others.
This book had Atlantis: The Lost Empire vibes and this duology is completed with Muse of Nightmares.
Falling Kingdoms– Morgan Rhodes
In the land of Mytica, three kingdoms have fought for power. Jonas, a rebel from Paelsia will do anything to gain reputation within his tribe and not to be overrun by the north or the south. Cleo, princess of Auranos, has been spoiled her entire life until the life she knows is destroyed and she must go one a rough journey. Lucia and Magnus are the princess and prince of ice-cold Limeros; the king seeks magic to become the leader of all of Mytica. Four separate stories that come together in great and terrible ways.
A YA version of Game of Thrones; don’t get attached to any of the characters! I absolutely adore this series of six books. I got attached to the characters and there were some I rooted for and others I detested. This is a great series that would get new readers into high fantasy with easy to follow politics.
Six of Crows– Leigh Bardugo
Six teens with extraordinary skills try to pull off a heist. The leader is a thief with a tragic past, a sharpshooter as a best friend, a girl that is the best spy of Ketterdam, a magic user with the ability of manipulating the heart, an ex-convict and war veteran, and a runaway. This unlikely crew must break into an impregnable prison or will die trying.
This is probably my favorite series of all time; the characters are unforgettable and wonderfully written. The plot keeps you on your toes and makes you turn the pages long after you should be sleeping. If Six of Crows is the YA novel in the vain of Ocean’s 11 then sequel Crooked Kingdom reminds me of the fabulousness of The Sting (Paul Newman and Robert Redford).
Reign of the Fallen– Sarah Glenn Marsh
Odessa is a necromancer, an important job since the king of her land is Dead. She must retrieve his soul from the Deadlands to reanimate him. Only the rich and powerful are able to be resurrected, but it is also at a cost; the Dead must be shrouded or they will become shades of themselves and become monsters. More and more Shades are appearing and it is up to Odessa and her friends to figure out who or what is behind this plot to change their world.
I think that this is one of the most original fantasy books that I have read in a really long time; great cast of characters, interesting plot, and Sarah Glenn Marsh’s writing makes it an easy book to get into. High fantasy novel, but the magic and politics are easy to follow. The sequel to this book is: Song of the Dead.
Protector of the Small series- Tamora Pierce
In the world of Tortall, Keladry of Mindelan wants to become the first known female knight of the realm in centuries. She has an uphill battle when not everyone agrees to the King’s decree of women becoming knights. Kel must fight biases and prejudices of her teachers and fellow pages. Kel will make friends and will make enemies, but she will prove that she deserves to be a lady knight.
This is a quartet of books; the first being First Test. Since this is an older series, the first two books read as middle grade books, while the final two read as YA. Continue the series with Page, Squire, and Lady Knight by one of the queens of fantasy, Tamora Pierce. This is the series that made me become who I am as a person and Pierce made me love reading.