With the stress of school and overbearing parents, every teenager has one moment where they want to escape to a different world. Luckily, fantasy fiction offers such escapes—from epic battles and quests in magical lands to new, exciting friendships. More than once, our teenage selves found some comfort in the genre—and occasionally learned lessons we could apply to our real, everyday lives.
Below is a selection of 14 fantasy books for teens that you (probably) haven't read yet. Whether you’re a teenager yourself—or you just want to reconnect with your younger self—they're here to take you on heart-stopping adventures full of magic and wonder.
The Cerulean duology by Amy Ewing is a science-fantasy story set in a floating matriarchal metropolis. Sera Lighthaven has never felt truly at home in the City Above the Sky. Unlike its other residents, Sera longs for when the City will untether from the planet Kaolin and float to a new world.
But in the first book in the series, The Cerulean, Sera is shocked to learn the cost of severing that connection is a human life — her own. Sera is the sacrifice needed to break the bond. When she miraculously survives the ceremony and must struggle to live on the surface of Kaolin, Sera realizes that her home city was both a shelter and a cage.
In the highly-anticipated sequel The Alcazar, Sera has come to understand the strength of her Cerulean abilities. She now knows where the City is tethered, but getting home will require the help of the people of Kaolin, and assistance from within the City itself.
Sera’s friend Leela, the High Priestess of the City, realizes that Sera survived the sacrifice. To save Sera and the City, both women must face their past...and build a new future for themselves and their people.
Chloe’s sophomore year isn’t going as planned. First, she’s bullied by the most popular girls in school. Then she’s struck by lightning. In the aftermath of the accident, she also becomes the center of a series of bizarre events, which herald the reawakening of a terrifying subterranean creature.
With the help of three very different friends, Chloe must face the world-shattering fact that dragons exist—and that she’s the only thing standing between them and the rest of humanity. The Elementalists is a thrilling fantasy novel with a conscience, as it weaves “a cautionary modern tale about climate change and pollution.”
Buffy and Sookie Stackhouse fans will love McKinley’s no-nonsense heroine and interpretation of the classic vampire tale: Rae Seddon, called “Sunshine” by her friends, heads to the lake for some much-needed space and quiet. But though the place has been deserted since the deadly vampire war, Rae quickly sees that the long-kept silence means nothing.
When she’s kidnapped by an unexpected brood of bloodsuckers—and then chained to one of their own—her sweet escape becomes a crazy race for survival. Keep in mind that these vamps are definitely not of the Cullen-family variety… But for readers looking for a story full of action and a heroine who can handle it on her own, Sunshine is a great introduction to McKinley’s work.
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The Great Alta Saga
In a world without men, Jenna is a girl foretold by legend—possibly even the reincarnate of the Great Alta goddess. Though she’s been trained to become a formidable warrior, her greatest power may very well be her invisible twin, Skada, who only emerges in the dark.
Together, will these two gifted sisters lead their people to peace—or to a violent downfall? A genre-blending epic fronted by two unique heroines, The Great Alta Saga proves why Jane Yolen has been hailed as "the Hans Christian Andersen of America" (Newsweek).
Related: 10 Must-Read Jane Yolen Books
The Spectral City
If you like gaslamp fantasy and ghosts (who doesn’t?), you can’t do much better than Leanna Renee Hieber’s Spectral City novels.
Turn-of-the-century New York is a dangerous place. No one knows that better than Eve Whitby, teenage medium and head of the all-female secret police unit dedicated to preventing murder and mayhem in the immortal realm.
In the first novel, Eve solves New York’s most ghoulish crimes alongside a crack team of ghosts and psychics. But when spirits start disappearing, Eve is caught up in a case that’s far more serious than just life and death. Fans of The X-Files or Carnival Row will devour this spooky fantasy series.
Jessica’s Guide to Dating on the Dark Side
High school senior Jessica Packwood is determined to make this year her best one yet. But an eccentric new exchange student, Lucius, brings her some startling (and life-changing) news: She isn't an average teenage girl, but a Romanian vampire princess who was once Lucius' fiancée.
With the threat of a global vampire war looming just ahead, Jessica must quickly become the person she was born to be if she hopes to save the world—and Lucius’ soul—from annihilation. College applications never looked so easy...
For his entire life, Eon has focused on studying swords and sorcery, hoping to become an apprentice to one of the 12 dragon gods. But Eon also has a secret—he is actually a she, 16-year-old Eona. Girls are forbidden to practice Dragon magic, and the discovery of her deception will lead to a certain death. As she inches closer to her goal, she’ll find that her rise to success comes with people who'd kill to see her fall...
The first novel in a duology of the same name, Eon is a story of destiny, inheritance, and power laced with action, passion, and mystery.
Thirteen-year-old Daine has a natural ease with animals, but her talent goes much deeper than simple camaraderie. Animals don’t just obey Daine’s orders, they listen—in a way that can’t be anything but magical. She discovers the extent of her powers when she's hired as a horse handler for the Queen's Riders, a job that exposes her to bizarre birds, monstrous spiders, and creatures unlike any she’s ever known.
Wild Magic is the first in Pierce’s second quartet in the Tortall Universe. With Daine’s animal abilities growing and expanding over the course of the series, this quartet is perfect for readers who love their furry and feathered friends.
The avian and serpiente shapeshifters have been at war for thousands of years. As the last heirs to their respective thrones, the hawkish Danica and cobra-like Zane must get married for the sake of ending the bitter feud between their people.
But even their union cannot heal old wounds, and the dangers of the newlyweds’ united courts become greater than those of the battlefield … Hawksong is the first in a five-book series about the avian and serpiente shapeshifters, which expands to include the stories of Dancia and Zane’s heirs.
Incorporating the house rivalry of Romeo and Juliet—but with a happier ending—this is one of the more romantic fantasy young adult novels on the list. Hawksong is the first in a five-book series about the avian and serpiente shapeshifters, which expands to include the stories of Danica and Zane’s heirs.
Bran Hambric: The Farfield Curse
Bran Hambric has no memory of his life before he was found in a vault at age six. Now 14, he lives with his adoptive family in the city of Dunce, a place where magic is feared and illegal. When Bran learns that he's a powerful mage—and that he likely inherited his gifts from his biological parents—he becomes embroiled in a plot to save the endangered Mages Council, only to amass a host of enemies.
The Farfield Curse is a coming-of-age story about an orphaned boy as he searches for answers about his (very illegal) magical abilities. Filled with satire, dry humor, and adventure, Kaleb Nation’s delightful fantasy read is a must-have for Potterheads.
Related: 8 Books Like Harry Potter
Before She Ignities
As the symbol of hope for the six nations of the Fallen Isles, Mira must always appear perfect and beautiful—even when she would rather wear a uniform and work in the dragon sanctuary with her two best friends. But that all changes when she’s betrayed and condemned to the Fallen Isles’ worst prison. No longer an envied symbol of her people, Mira has to find the truth about the magic she holds before everything is destroyed.
The first book in the Fallen Isles series introduces a fantasy heroine who struggles not only with external forces, but also with her own crippling anxiety. This is a “chosen one” fantasy book that’s very different from others you’ve read before.
The Tiger at Midnight
After Jansa’s queen and royal family were killed, Esha became a legendary rebel called the Viper. Now tasked with making the guilty pay, her next task is to eliminate the ruthless General Hotha. But when she crosses paths with Kunal, a young soldier and the nephew of the general she’s targeting, everything will begin to change—and neither can make it out unscathed.
Filled with action, political intrigue, and romance, The Tiger at Midnight is the first installment in an epic new fantasy trilogy inspired by Indian history and Hindu mythology.
Inside the mixed martial arts ring, Jade is a champion—but outside of the gym, her life is spiraling out of control. When she ends up in a fight with a Hollywood star who could make or break her gym’s reputation, Jade’s coach sends her to Thailand to cool off and stay out of the way. But once she arrives, she discovers a human trafficking ring led by a man stealing the souls of children to find immortality, and Jade may be the only one who can help break up the ring for good.
Told in alternating perspectives between Jade and a young woman named Mya caught up in the trafficking ring, Shadowboxer is a world-crossing standalone fantasy book great for readers interested in high-action sports.
Walk on Earth a Stranger
Lee has always been able to sense gold in the world around her. But she’s always kept her ability a secret—and when a catastrophe destroys the home she’s always loved, she discovers just how wise that choice always was. On the run from a man who seeks to control her and her ability, Lee disguises herself as a boy and joins the wagon caravans journeying westward during the Gold Rush. But Lee’s not the only one heading west, and it’s going to take more than just her magical ability to keep her out of harm’s way.
Historical fantasy readers will love the Gold Seer trilogy, which begins with Walk on Earth a Stranger. Readers with a more romantic bent will love the relationship that brews between Lee and her best friend, while those seeking a great found family story will enjoy watching the bond between the caravan members unfold.
Devils & Thieves
The small town of Hawthorne, New York looks quiet from the outside—but it’s home to a powerful magic-wielding motorcycle gang called the Devils’ League. Jemmie Charmichael would count herself as a magic-user called a kindled, but every attempt she makes at casting a spell goes horribly awry. Then an annual festival brings the rest of the kindled community to Hawthorne—and people start to go missing. Jemmie must team up with her ex-boyfriend, the leader of the Devils’ League, to find the missing people and find the truth behind their disappearances.
Jemmie’s struggle to understand her own abilities is one of the best parts of Devils & Thieves. This darker fantasy novel gives off tons of Halloween vibes, and it’s a great choice to pick up during the cooler months of the year.
The Hearts We Sold
Only one thing drives a person to bargain away one of their body parts to a demon: desperation. And Dee Moreno is no different. Thankfully, the demon she approaches doesn’t want an arm or a leg—just her heart. Which seems like a fair trade for what she wants: to stay in the boarding school that feels like the only place she ever belonged instead of being kicked out when her parents stop paying her tuition. But what follows is beyond anything Dee could imagine—and the only person left to rely on is a boy who traded his heart away, the same as her.
This captivating and romantic fantasy explores the fallout of a Faustian bargain in a world where such deals are almost commonplace. Readers looking for a fresh take on a devil’s bargain will find The Hearts We Sold enchanting.
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An Ember in the Ashes
An Ember in the Ashes is the first book in a New York Times bestselling series of the same name by Sabaa Tahir. The addictive fantasy epic is set in the Martial Empire, a totalitarian regime inspired by ancient Rome.
The people who live under the Empire must pledge their entire existence to supporting those in power, or be put to death. But Leila won’t stay silent when her brother’s life is threatened. To save her beloved brother she becomes a spy within the Empire’s elite military academy. There she meets Elias, a renowned soldier.
Elias questions his allegiance, while Leila lives a lie for her family. Together they will change each other’s destinies, and transform a kingdom. This four-book series is the kind of world fantasy fans will get lost in. If you’re not a fan of the Ember in the Ashes series yet, get ready to become obsessed.
Six of Crows
Six of Crows is the first book in a duology of the same name, set in Leigh Bardugo’s beloved Grishaverse fantasy universe. No one knows Ketterdam better than Kaz Brekker. The city is a hub of trade and treason, and Kaz has made a killing exploiting its weaknesses — but he has his eyes on an even bigger bounty.
Kaz has a chance at the heist of a lifetime, and he hires a masterful team to help pull it off. Six of Crows is a first-rate adventure, with romance, action, and characters that have gained a loyal following from readers (just look up ‘Six of Crows fanart’ if you doubt the devotion of Bardugo’s fans).
A Netflix Original show based on the Six of Crows series and Shadow and Bone, another series set in the Grishaverse, is currently in production. In other words, now’s the ideal time to become a Bardugo acolyte.
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