Magic and mayhem, action and adventure, the Harry Potter series has it all. Each book in the series pits forces of good against evil, and it’s not easy.
And while the story may begin with young kids getting swept away to a wizarding world, there are also dark themes within, and when Harry Potter comes face to face with the things that terrify him, Harry becomes a man.
He has the strength to fight for what is right and he does so.
The heroes of the story are friends Harry, Hermione, and Ron, and they’re up against real danger and some rather powerful villains, amongst side stories about fitting in at a magical boarding school, lessons in magic and magical creatures, prejudice against others, authority and how it’s used, friendship, and much more.
And while the movie series is very captivating and incredibly cinematic, the novels add much more depth and even additional storylines.
If you love the Harry Potter series (and who could blame you!) you should definitely check out The Zodiac Academy series by Caroline Peckham and Susanne Valenti, and The Shadow and Bone Trilogy by Leigh Bardugo, and The Scholomance series by Naomi Novik, which all run in the same vein, with magic and palpable danger.
Themes In Harry Potter
According to author J. K. Rowling herself, death is a central theme in Harry Potter books, if not THE central theme.
We learn very early in the series that Harry’s parents die shortly after Harry’s birth, and the main villain, Lord Voldemort, is determined to gain the power of the Philosopher’s Stone to achieve everlasting life.
Many characters within the story come very close to losing their lives, and some characters actually do lose their lives.
Difference And Belonging
There is unequivocally a theme of difference and belonging that runs through the Harry Potter series…
In the first book in the series, the children have to go under the sorting hat to determine which group of pupils they truly belong to.
But more significantly, at one point Hermione gets referred to as a Mudblood, because she is not a pure blood wizard. This can be likened to racism.
Friendship And Self-Sacrifice
The 3 heroes team up together to fight against dark and evil forces, and Harry is prepared to sacrifice himself so that others can survive.
Adult Books Like Harry Potter
This book has been described as what Hogwarts might be like if it were run by Voldemort – and that’s a great way to describe it!
It features two main protagonists, identical twins Tory and Darcy. They’re a very feisty pair who grew up in the foster system.
But when they get told they are magical royalty and have to graduate from the prestigious magic college Zodiac Academy in order to receive their inheritance, the cash strapped girls decide to go for it.
The twins find themselves in a world with faeries, shifters, and vampires, and they soon discover just how powerful they really are.
At the academy school are 4 hot guys, who are the current temporary heirs to the land, who are cocky and desperate to maintain their position.
These heirs are also the heads of the 4 houses of the academy.
And the girls find themselves split from one another for the first time in their lives, being assigned to different houses, and having to endure humiliating initiation rituals on their own.
Intense power plays begin before the twins even discover the full extent of their own powers.
Power plays that involve real humiliation, and put the twins at serious risk.
And they are not limited to interactions with other students – Darcy and Tory have to watch out for teachers, too.
Toward the end of the first book, there is a murder, and no one knows who is responsible.
The story grips you from the very first page and is likely to keep you reading the entire series, which when this article was written stood at 8 books.
Like the Harry Potter series, the stakes are always high, and the heroines have to draw on their courage and pluck to fight for their rightful place in the academy and in the land.
The overarching theme in this series of books is the greed for power and the lengths people will go to in order to get what they want, much like with Lord Voldemort in Harry Potter.
And it also talks about themes such as difference and belonging, since the girls have to prove that they belong to their respective houses and whether they really have the right to be there since, although they ought to be the rightful heirs, no one wants on them on their turf, especially given that they know nothing about the magical world.
As for the pros and cons of this series, I would say it’s mostly pros, due to the high stakes and intense drama.
If I had to pick out a con, it would be that it’s not really suitable for younger readers. There are scenes in there that, shall we say, go beyond merely kissing.
- High stakes
- Intense drama
- Not really suitable for younger readers
Themes: greed for power, difference, and belonging
The Shadow And Bone Trilogy And Six Of Crows Duology both By Leigh Bardugo
Like the famous Harry Potter series, the Shadow and Bone series has also made it to the screen.
Season one of the TV adaptation has already come out, and by the time you read this, the second season may also have already aired.
It doesn’t take place on Earth, however, but in the Grishaverse.
The Grishaverse is a world where darkness reigns and monsters feast on human flesh. There are 5 warring nations, and science and superstition collide.
Readers tend to get hooked in the first book of the series and tend to go on to read the remaining two books of the Shadow and Bone series before moving on to the Six of Crows duology, a two-book series written by the same author and set in the same universe.
Just like the Harry Potter series, the central character, in this case Alina Starkov, discovers that she has a dormant magical power.
Great power, in fact.
And very soon after discovering this power, Alina is kidnapped and sent to train as a member of the Grisha, because the entire Grishaverse all depends on her.
On her ability and on her choices.
Like the Harry Potter series, this series is also somewhat a coming of age tale, since there’s a distinct element of growth and maturity in the central character as she readies herself for the challenges that lie ahead and a determination to meet with this danger head-on.
- Similar themes to the Harry Potter series
- Not as many books as the Harry Potter series
Themes: coming of age, growth & maturity, dormant magical powers, a chosen one
This series is written by the same authors as the Zodiac Academy series described earlier, and it is also set in the same universe as Zodiac Academy.
A magical land with shifters, fae, and vampires.
Again, it is set in an academy setting for young adults.
The first book in the series centers around Elise Callisto, a vampire on a mission to find out who was behind her brother’s death, and seek her revenge.
In fact, she joins the academy for this very purpose.
Again, there are intense power plays, and it seems like Elise may have bitten off more than she can chew.
There are plenty of pros for this book series, with themes such as revenge, intense dramatic power plays, fated mates, and romance
But, I do have to say, this series is strictly targeted at adult readers since there are raunchy scenes between the central character Elise and several other characters.
And there is a significant dimension centered around substance abuse as well.
- Set in a magical land with shifters, fae, and vampires
- Intriguing characters
- Not really suitable for younger readers
Themes: magical academy setting, revenge, intense, dramatic power plays, and fated mates, and romance
The Scholomance series is a relative newbie on the scene, starting with A Deadly Education.
The story follows Galadriel “El” Higgins, a sorceress attending the fabled school of black magic, the Scholomance.
And there’s a prophecy that states that she is destined to become a powerful, evil sorceress.
But in this dark academia novel, where the curriculum is centered around black magic as a means of violence and destruction, as you may imagine, there is action, adventure, and danger at every turn.
In fact, half of all of the students there are killed before they even have the chance to graduate!
The school’s defenses are at risk, and El is tasked with saving the students of the school when they are attacked by the Maleficaria.
She teams up with her companions, classmates Aadhya and Liu, and together they must face a near impossible task.
Like Harry Potter, the main protagonist has lost a parent and has to find her own way in the world, and decide whether she is going to follow her destiny.
And she has to find courage in the face of adversity.
Also like Harry Potter, there is also a theme of life and death, since during flashbacks, the reader learns that El’s father died protecting El’s mother.
Similarly, there are also themes of difference and belonging, friendship, and self-sacrifice.
Especially when Eli becomes entangled with Orion, who comes from an enclave, an elite community of wealthy and powerful wizards.
- Similar themes to the Harry Potter series
- Darker than Harry Potter, with violence
Themes: life and death, destiny, prophecy & fate, difference and belonging, friendship, and self-sacrifice.
This bestselling series has parallels not only with the Harry Potter series, but also with the Caroline Peckham and Susanne Valenti series, Zodiac Academy discussed earlier, and even with the Hunger Games series, as well.
The tale is filled with magic, heartbreak, and danger.
This enchanting fantasy novel tells of two sisters caught up in a mysterious competition called Caraval, a once-a-year performance where the audience participates in the show.
The story begins with Scarlett’s powerful and cruel father having set up an arranged marriage for his daughter.
But her sister, Tella, manages to get Scarlett away to see the wondrous Caravel.
However, Tella finds herself kidnapped by the Caravel’s mastermind organizer, Legend.
And it turns out that this time around, the Caravel competition revolves around Tella, and whoever finds Tella first is to be declared the winner.
But there’s a deadline, and Scarlett has just 5 days to win her sister back.
The series has also been compared with the likes of Night circus, and Alice in Wonderland.
This compelling series has been described as “heart-pounding and fresh” by fellow authors.
There are twists, turns, and surprises, and even a little unforeseen romance.
And once you’ve completed the first book in the series, you’ll certainly want to read the next two books in the series!
- Evil characters
- Race against time
- Only 3 books in the series
Themes: sisterhood, magic, heartbreak, and danger, twists, turns, and surprises, and unforeseen romance
So, if you have what is called a “book hangover” after completing the whole of the Harry Potter series, and no longer know what to do with your leisure time now that you’ve finished it, you needn’t fear, because there are a plethora of other similar book series out there to get your teeth stuck into.
And to be honest with you, this article only scratches the surface of what’s out there in terms of books of magic, adventure, danger, and the more human sides that feature in every good story — dealing with difficult emotions and maturing as a person, whatever your walk of life.
All of the book series in this article tell intense, dramatic tales where the protagonist has to fight against dark forces to save all that they hold dear.
But in addition to the differences in the overall plot of each story, there are also differences in the nature of the tale…
For example, the Shadow of Bones trilogy and the Scholomance series feature a strong character who goes against all odds, and who demonstrates unparalleled courage.
The protagonists are basically thrust into a situation that seems insurmountable.
And some of the series described here feature scenes that take place in reality rather than solely in a whole other universe, such as Zodiac Academy, and the Scholomance series.
Frequently Asked Questions
Are Harry Potter Books Suitable For Adults?
Don’t let anyone tell you what books you should or shouldn’t read for leisure. Millions of adults adore Harry Potter books.
What Book Series Is The Most Similar To Harry Potter?
The most similar book series to Harry Potter is the Percy Jackson series, which features demigods, magic, adventure, and a protagonist that matures over the series.
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