If You Like
I’ve been revisiting some of my old YA adventure novels this past week. They’re a very specific subset of novels: they’re all about a young woman’s coming of age in a mysterious kingdom far away (no real historical places or time periods need apply).
If you like young adult fantasy/adventure stories, you’ll probably like:
— Robin McKinley’s The Hero and the Crown and The Blue Sword, both set in the mythical kingdom of Damar, in both of which hitherto overlooked young women (who feel rather unheroic to themselves) discover their own inner strength as they rise to the occasion to defend Damar;
— Tamora Pierce’s Song of the Lioness Quartet, beginning with Alanna: The First Adventure, the tale of a young girl who switches places with her brother so she can train to be a knight;
— Mercedes Lackey’s Arrows of the Queen (followed by Arrow’s Flight and Arrow’s Fall), in which a young girl from a repressive fundamentalist community finds herself “chosen” to serve as one of the Queen’s elite guard, and must learn her own powers and the treacherous ways of court intrigue;
— Julia Kagawa’s The Iron King, in which a teenage girl must plunge into the land of the faerie to save her little brother, discovering her own unexpected heritage along the way;
— Julie Dean Smith’s Call of Madness series, in which the princess of a kingdom in which magic is reviled must flee and seek support abroad when her own magical gift reveals itself;
— Patricia C. Wrede’s Enchanted Forest Chronicles, starting with Dealing with Dragons, in which the idiosyncratic Princess Cimorene volunteers herself as a dragon’s princess (these are rather more playful than the others above);
— and, on the more grown-up end, Lois McMaster Bujold’s Paladin of Souls, The Curse of Chalion, and The Hallowed Hunt, which have a rather Damar-esque feel to them.
What are your favorite YA adventure/fantasy novels?
The Song of the Lioness quartet was my very favorite book series when I was in middle school. I remember my school librarian telling me to read the first one. I was very skeptical at first, but I fell in love with the characters and the adventure of the story.
I re-read the series last year. It’s funny how revisiting books from your youth just takes you right back to that time.
I LOVE this series, and also Pierce’s other two series about strong females: “Protector of the Small” and “Trickster”
As a teen I really enjoyed Ella Enchanted by Gail Levine which is a retelling of Cinderella. And I really, really love the superhero infused After The Golden Age by Carrie Vaughn, but its more “new adult” (main character is 25).
I just got into Lois McMaster Bujold! Surprised I had never heard of her before last year.
I haven’t read the Song of the Lioness Quartet, but I loved Trickster’s Choice and Trickster’s Queen, also by Tamora Pierce.
I was so happy to see Tamora Pierce on this list – sometimes I think my lifetime of reading constantly (and also my feminist sensibilities) started with her books in the 3rd grade. I’ve read each of the Tortall books several times – I think I reread them for the umpteenth time only last Christmas.
I also think maybe Graceling, Fire, and Bitterblue by Kristen Cashore belong to this list. I haven’t read the third one yet, but Fire was fantastic. Also, they have a surprisingly terrifying villain for YA books.
I think the Books of Bayern by Shannon Hale are fantastic! The Goose Girl, Enna Burning, River Secrets, and Forest Born. River Secrets is my favorite.
I also like The Princess Academy by Shannon Hale.
I’ve been reading the Dragon Slippers trilogy by Jessica Day George to my kids this year.
I usually tend to read about the strong female leads, but I also enjoyed The Ranger’s Apprentice series this year as well.
Shannon Hale! So wonderful!
Tamora Pierce is my all-time favorite! I loved her books when I was little–who am I kidding, I still love her books.
I also loved the Pendragon series by Dan McHale. More sci-fi than fantasy/historical, but excellent.
I also like Lloyd Alexander’s “Prydain Chronicles”, Sherwood Smith’s “Crown Duel” and “Court Duel” and Libba Bray’s “A Great and Terrible Beauty’s” Trilogy.
Ditto Prydain too. Also, in more recent book, Laini Taylor’s Daughter of Smoke and Bone.
I have always been a huge fan of Sherwood Smith’s Crown Duel and Court Duel (two books that are now published as one called Crown Duel). The first part is a typical adventure story of a young woman who fights against a tyrannical king and his armies, while the second part is about her in the court of the now-deposed king and filled with court intrigue about who will rule next. It’s awesome.
I got really into Diana Wynne Jones (and she’s definitely still a comfort read). Patricia C. Wrede’s The Thirteenth Child is a cool alternative American frontier with magic, and she and Caroline Strevemer did Sorcery and Cecelia which is correspondence between cousins in magical Regency England. And Pamela Dean’s Tam Lin reminds me more of other Robin McKinley books where it takes a while to really figure out what’s been going on in the background.
I cannot recommend enough The Emerald Atlas by John K Stephens and Wildwood by Colin Meloy! They are both youth fantasy/adventure novels that remind me a bit of Harry Potter and The Chronicles of Narnia. In The Emerald Atlas, a family of orphaned children, led by the oldest sister, travel back in time to battle an evil witch and change the course of history. It has all sorts of mythical creatures…even dwarves! In Wildwood, a young girl’s little brother is kidnapped by a murder of crows and she follows them into an enchanted forest. Once there, she discovers a magical world under the oppression of an evil queen along with her coyote army. The animals talk and there are different countries in the forest including a country entirely composed of birds. These are two of the best books I have read in years! The second book in each series came out last fall but I haven’t read them yet- saving them for a rainy day!
The Seer and Sword by Victoria Hanley and the two companions novels were some of my favorite. Patricia C. Wrede’s novels are fabulous. I liked Tamora Pierce’s novels but they struck me as somewhat preachy.