The best YA fantasy books to escape in

We all need a break from the real world – and our screens – sometimes. Here, booktuber Jean Menzies, from Bookish Thoughts shares her edit of the best young adult fantasy books.

Young adult fantasy comes in all shapes and sizes. It might sound like a niche genre, but you will find a hugely diverse range of stories within it. 

The books selected here do what young adult literature does best, which is tackle headfirst the struggles of young people. Fantastical backdrops often offer the space to explore these experiences in new and engaging ways. Some of the most influential bestsellers of the twenty-first century have fallen into the YA SFF category, and speak to young, old, and medium-aged alike. Here are a few suggestions for exciting YA fantasy novels to get lost in. ​

For more inspiration, don't miss our edit of the best fantasy books of 2022.


by Frances Hardinge

Book cover for Unraveller

In a world where anyone can cast a life-destroying curse, only one person has the power to unravel them. Kellen does not fully understand his unique gift, but helps those who are cursed, like his friend Nettle who was trapped in the body of a bird for years. She is now Kellen's constant companion and his closest ally. But the Unraveller carries a curse himself and, unless he and Nettle can remove it, Kellen is a danger to everything – and everyone – around him . . .

Cemetery Boys

by Aiden Thomas

Book cover for Cemetery Boys

From New York Times-bestelling author Aiden Thomas comes an LGBTQIA+ ghost story about magic, acceptance and what it means to be your true self. In an attempt to gain his family’s acceptance, Yadriel decides to summon his cousin’s ghost and help him cross to the afterlife. But things get complicated when he accidentally summons the ghost of his high school’s resident bad boy, Julian Diaz - and Julian won't go into death quietly. The two boys must work together if Yadriel is to move forward with his plan,  but the more time Yadriel and Julian spend together, the harder it is to let each other go.

We Free the Stars

by Hafsah Faizal

Book cover for We Free the Stars

We Free the Stars is Hafsah Faizal's spellbinding conclusion to the Sands of Arawiya duology. The battle is over, but the war is just beginning. Low on resources and allies alike, Zafira and Nasir are determined to finish their mission; to restore magic to their kingdom. But time is running out and if order is to be restored, sacrifices will have to be made. Both hopeful and devastating, this is YA fantasy at it's best. 

The Morning Flower

by Amanda Hocking

Book cover for The Morning Flower

Amanda Hocking returns to the Trylle universe in her new series The Omte Odyssey. In the second book of the series, Ulla, Pan and Eliana made an incredible discovery in the city of Merellä. What they find leads them on a journey across the world on a mission to discover Eliana's heritage. But powerful enemies are close behind them . . . 

Discover the first book in the series here.

The Sunbearer Trials

by Aiden Thomas

Book cover for The Sunbearer Trials

Teo, a seventeen-year-old Jade semidiós and the trans son of the goddess of birds, isn't worried about the Trials . . . at least, not for himself, but he's determined to get himself and his friends through the trials unscathed - for fame, glory, and their own survival. This breathtaking, Mexican-inspired fantasy from Aiden Thomas, the author of the New York Times-bestselling Cemetery Boys, is a must-read in 2022. 

Children of Blood and Bone

by Tomi Adeyemi

Book cover for Children of Blood and Bone

This high fantasy series is the young adult answer to Afrofuturism – a genre that is making waves in the world of SFF, which has been so Eurocentric for far too long. Adeyemi draws on African culture and mythology to create the mesmerizing, fantastical world of her books. The main character Zélie once lived in a world of magic, but now those who call themselves maji are hunted down by a ruthless king. Zélie is determined to restore magic, but it may be her own powers that prove the most difficult to master. It’s a coming-of-age story about self-discovery with a tumultuous background; there’s a reason this one couldn’t be pushed from the bestsellers list for so long. 

Children of Virtue and Vengeance

by Tomi Adeyemi

Book cover for Children of Virtue and Vengeance

In Children of Blood and Bone, Zélie fought to restore magic to the people of Orïsha. Find out if she suceeded in the breathtaking sequel to Children of Blood and Bone in which Zélie must fight to unite the maji and avert a civil war. Soon she's at breaking point – can she bring the kingdom together? 


by Frances Hardinge

Book cover for Deeplight

Hardinge treats the reader to her unique blend of magic, mystery, and eerie atmosphere in this novel. Enter the world of Myriad – made up of a cluster of islands – each of which was once ruled by a powerful god. Since the gods died out, the hunt for and sale of ‘godware’, the last remnants of Myriad’s deities, has turned into a thriving trade. Meanwhile, Huck, a young ‘artful dodger’ type, survives the streets on small-time scams. Things escalate quickly, however, when Huck’s mysterious friend Jelt ropes him into a far more ominous scheme. And so begins a richly woven adventure that perfectly balances light and dark. This book may be fantastical, but the relationships explored are highly realistic, for better or for worse.

Girls of Paper and Fire

by Natasha Ngan

Book cover for Girls of Paper and Fire

The first book in Ngan’s young adult series combines elements of fantasy with dystopia. The world in which the reader is plunged into segregates society into three strict classes. Our protagonist Lei is the lowest on the ladder, and has been chosen as one of this year’s ‘paper-girls’. These young women are forced to serve as members of the King’s harem. In the midst of her captivity, however, Lei falls in love with another of the king’s female concubines: something that is strictly forbidden. This novel tackles patriarchy and sexual violence in an honest and sensitive way, whilst following one young woman who is discovering her sexuality in a world that scorns it.

Girls of Paper and Fire by Natasha Ngan

The Wee Free Men

by Terry Pratchett

Book cover for The Wee Free Men

Sometimes we all need a little bit of levity in our literature. Pratchett is perhaps best known for his Discworld novels: forty comedic fantasy works all set on a planet of his own creation that rides through space on the back of a giant turtle. One of the series he set in Discworld was written especially for the young adult audience: the Tiffany Aching books. Tiffany is a budding young witch whose little brother is stolen by the fair-folk and taken away to the fairy realm. In order to get him back, she must enlist the help of the titular Wee Free Men, rowdy pictsies with bright red hair and a penchant for drinking and stealing sheep. What could possibly go wrong?

Buy The Wee Free Men


by Susan Dennard

Book cover for Truthwitch

In search of your next epic fantasy series? Look no further. Truthwitch marks the beginning of a marathon adventure following Safi, one of the few remaining Truthwitches. Safi’s magic allows her to know when someone is telling the truth or lying through their teeth – a skill some people would much rather no one could wield. Safi’s close friend Iseult, however, does not even understand her own magic. The two girls must find a way to survive in a magical world ravaged by war, but which alliances should they make and which should they break?

Oh My Gods

by Alexandra Sheppard

Book cover for Oh My Gods

Still not sure if fantasy is for you? Sheppard’s novel is for all intents and purposes a contemporary story about an ordinary girl dealing with ordinary problems, except her dad is the all-powerful Greek god Zeus. Helen has to keep her dad’s identity a secret whilst dealing with the loss of her mortal mother, attending a new school in London and attempting to make friends. It doesn’t help that her half-siblings Aphrodite and Apollo are wreaking havoc at home. Sheppard manages to perfectly combine the fantastical with the realistic in her debut novel, and readers will find it easy to relate to Helen – even if their own parents aren’t ancient deities.

Buy Oh My Gods

The Library of the Dead

by T. L. Huchu

Book cover for The Library of the Dead

When Ropa dropped out of school to become a ghostalker, earning a living by carrying messages from the dead to the living, it seemed harmless enough. But then the dead begin whispering about someone who is bewitching children and leaving them joyless husks. When Ropa starts investigating she needs to draw on Zimbabwean magic and Scottish pragmatism to hunt down clues. And what she finds will change her world forever . . . This magical fantasy book is the first in the Edinburgh Nights series. 

In this episode of Book Break, guest host Elizabeth shares her book recommendations for fans of Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials series.