Your teenage years can be super hard – school is intensifying, your parents are probably on your back, and maybe your crush doesn’t like you back. Whatever problems you may be facing, fantasy books are a brilliant way to escape reality and provide plenty of other, extraordinary things to think about.
Fantasy is such a wide-ranging genre, so if you’re new to fantasy books, it can be overwhelming. The fantasy genre often incorporates elements from other genres too, so you’re bound to find something you’ll enjoy in this varied list of suggestions.
Fantasy and horror often work well together, as do fantasy and thriller, fantasy and romance, and fantasy and adventure. In order for a book to be labeled a fantasy, it must be set in a world outside of our reality and should incorporate different creatures such as monsters, fairies, demons, angels, vampires, werewolves, witches, wizards, goblins, dwarves, elves, and so many more.
As you can see, there’s so much out there to explore and whether you’re looking for books that only flirt with fantasy elements or whether you’re after epic fantasies that immerse you in completely different lands, we’ve got it all here.
If you’re a fantasy nerd and you’re looking for something a little more niche, we’ve got some great suggestions on this list for you. However, if you’re just dipping your toe into the YA fantasy world, don’t worry, we’ll walk you through each suggestion slowly and recommend which books will be the best to start out with.
So, without further ado, here are the 30 best fantasy books for teenagers.
Northern Lights by Philip Pullman
Lyra is suddenly thrown into a new world of danger, myth, and intrigue after she makes a series of decisions in an attempt to save her dad’s life. In this new world, every person’s soul has a ‘daemon’ (animal) companion that is obliged to follow them everywhere.
Northern Lights follows Lyra as she tries to return her friend Roger to his rightful place. She is forced to navigate a whole new world with a different set of rules and must escape the danger that seems to follow her everywhere.
This is also a great starter fantasy novel for young teens. It is dangerous but in a more light-hearted way in comparison to some of the more intense, gritty stories on this list.
Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo
This is the first in Bardugo’s brilliant Shadow and Bone series that has wowed fantasy fans across the globe.
It is set in the war-torn land of Ravka, which has been divided by the Shadow Fold and is now home to dangerous, flesh-eating monsters. Alina Starkov is at the epicenter of this story and is a minor member of her regiment, which is attacked by the Fold early on in the book.
With her best friend injured and her regiment in tatters, Alina takes it upon herself to stop the Fold, but as she does this, she unleashes a power she never knew she had, one that will undoubtedly help her restore her land to its pre-war state.
The Vampire Diaries by L.J. Smith
Made particularly popular by the brilliant American drama series starring Ian Somerhalder, Nina Dobrev, and Paul Wesley, The Vampire Diaries has become a stable book within teen fantasy fiction.
The series follows a group of normal American teens, with normal American teen problems – school, friendships, family issues, and crushes all make the list. But when mysterious brothers, Stefan and Damon enter their lives, everything seems to shift.
It becomes clear that Stefan and Damon are not normal teens like the rest of them… they’re vampires, who have roamed the streets of Mystic Falls since 1864 when they were first turned.
What follows is an epic story of history, love triangles, danger, death, and magic. It is complex, dramatic, heartwrenching, and jam-packed with twists and turns. This one is a brilliant starter fantasy series, incorporating a huge amount of fantasy elements and characters while remaining grounded in American normalcy.
Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan
Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief is the start of one of the most well-loved mythical fantasy series ever written. Rick Riordan creates an epic story that merges the human world with the realms of gods and goddesses and follows one boy who has a huge amount to get used to.
Percy Jackson is your average American boy, with a few more things on his plate. His mother is married to a narcissist, making his home dynamic completely intolerable. But Percy soon escapes his home environment, after finding out that he’s a demi-god, the son of Poseidon, with his own extraordinary powers and abilities.
Percy is sent to a demi-god camp, a site used for training people like him, half human and half deity. As if this wasn’t enough for Percy to digest, he is soon sent on a quest to retrieve Zeus’s missing lightning bolt and ends up at Mount Olympus face-to-face with the father he never knew he had.
A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas
This extraordinary book has been an international best-seller and remains on the Amazon.com charts today. It follows Feyre, a 19-year-old huntress who, after killing an innocent wolf in the woods, gets an unfriendly visit from another beast, demanding retribution.
A Court of Thorns and Roses follows the development of the relationship between Feyre and her captor after she realizes that this beast is actually Tamlin, one of the old faerie rulers who once governed her land.
Feyre has been warned about the fae world but she can’t stop her feelings from developing and soon, she finds herself protecting the person that once posed so much danger.
Twilight by Stephenie Meyer
Vampires, werewolves, romance, and a whole load of action are what to expect from this 7-book series.
Twilight follows Bella, who moves to a new town and enrolls in a new high school after moving to live with her dad for a while. She makes new friends and meets Edward, an intriguing teen who takes a peculiar interest in her and seems to have a dark past.
Her dad also reintroduces her to Jacob, one of the local boys who she spent some of her childhood with. Jacob makes it very clear that he’s interested in her romantically, and soon Bella finds herself at the center of a complex love triangle and must decide between the two boys.
However, when she discovers that Edward is a blood-sucking vampire and Jacob is a dangerous werewolf, the situation becomes a little more complicated, and instead of deciding which boy to date, she finds herself deciding which extraordinary world to enter.
Romantic, thrilling, and complex, this fantasy book will take you through the emotional ringer and will keep you on your toes until the end. This book is set in America and only includes fantasy figures and concepts, so it’s a great one to start with if you’re new here.
Rebel of the Sands by Alwyn Hamilton
Putting a brilliant fantastical twist on Arabic culture, Rebel of the Sands follows Amani Al’Hiza who ends up on the run with a criminal.
She enters a shooting competition against Jin, who she has no idea is actually connected to the war between the Sultan of Miraji and his exiled son. After a few turbulent events, the pair are forced to run away together, desperately trying to escape ghouls, djinni, and the Sultan’s army.
This is a dangerous adventurous story that follows one girl who just wanted her freedom. She never thought she’d be at the center of national turmoil and now the Rebel Prince wants her to join him.
The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
This trilogy took the literary scene by storm and has become one of the world’s best-selling series for YA readers. This genre-bending series blends dystopia, action, fantasy, and a little romance, appealing to a wide range of readers.
The Hunger Games is set in Panem, a Capitol that was once known as North America. The Capitol is divided into districts and maintains order by hosting a deadly event each year. The annual Hunger Games forces one boy and one girl from each district to fight to the death in a man-made maze filled with different tasks and dangers. The games are streamed live on TV and are approached as a form of entertainment.
This story follows Katniss Everdeen, who volunteers to participate in the games in her younger sister’s place. She is taken on a dangerous journey that will force her to make cruel decisions and choose between humanity and survival.
The Cruel Prince by Holly Black
New York Times best-selling author Holly Black brings a new whirlwind adventure in this book. The Cruel Prince is the story of a mortal girl who gets swept up in the royal fae world.
Jude’s parents were murdered when she was only 7 years old. That’s when she and her sisters were given to the High Court of Faerie. After 10 years of living with them, Jude wants to become one and wants to feel a sense of belonging amongst the faeries. But humans are despised by all fey, especially the mischievous Prince Cardan, son of the High King.
This story tells of Jude’s integration and the extent to which she will go to feel like she belongs among the fae community. Defiance, deception, and bloodshed are all part of her plan, but the looming war stands in her way.
An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir
An Ember in the Ashes is an epic fantasy set in an other-worldly land inspired by ancient Rome. It follows Laia, an orphaned Scholar living in a society dominated by the authoritarian Martial Empire.
After her brother’s arrest, Laia must go undercover and smuggle herself into the empire’s strongest military academy. She soon meets Elias, an undetermined, but great soldier who is fulfilling one last quest before he deserts the military. These two will help each other fight for a different future, but the strong, all-powerful regime is a ruthless enemy.
Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs
This one is slightly creepier, perfect for those searching for a slice of horror in their fantasy reads. It follows 16-year-old Jacob as he discovers a mysterious, abandoned orphanage off the coast of Wales.
It was once Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, but now it sits in ruins, merely waiting for someone to uncover the secrets of its past.
The more Jacob explores, the more he realizes that this was not a happy site for orphaned children. Instead, it homed dangerous individuals, who Jacob suspects may still be alive.
Eragon by Christopher Paolini
This is the story of Eragon, a 15-year-old farm boy who discovers that his destiny lies in dragon riding. He is given a spectacular sword, helpful advice, and a dragon egg and is soon plunged into a world of myth, magic, and power.
Eragon follows this young boy as he develops into a powerful dragon rider, with the ability to destroy empires or save millions. His choices will be integral to the future of the kingdom, but can he handle the pressure?
Half Bad by Sally Green
In an alternate England where humans and witches live alongside each other, a 16-year-old boy feels conflicted. As the son of the most powerful witch ever to walk the earth and an ordinary, now dead, woman, Nathan must navigate the two witch factions, who have different opinions of him. One believes he is a great threat and the other believes he is a powerful weapon.
But he is trapped – cuffed and caged for the protection of everyone else. Nathan must escape before he turns 17, the age at which he receives great powers from his father and will transform into a witch in his own right.
Half Bad will make you question everything you think you know about Nathan, will he extend his father’s reputation of cruelty? Or will he use his powers for good?
The Gilded Ones by Namina Forna
Red blood will finally allow her to integrate with her community, gold blood will have dangerous consequences. 16-year-old Deka is terrified of the results of her blood ceremony which is now rapidly approaching.
When her blood runs gold, Deka must commit to a new life as a warrior, in the only place that will accept her and others like her with rare gifts. But this is a whole new world for her and everyone has something to hide.
The Gilded Ones is a brilliant story of identity, trust, and mystery, guaranteed to keep you on the edge of your seat.
Divergent by Veronica Roth
Divergent is the first in a 3-book series that is set in a dystopian world split into factions. Upon adolescence, each person must take a test that will match them with the correct faction; however, this is only a guide and each person is free to choose the faction they prefer.
But what happens when your test comes back inconclusive? Tris is divergent – she doesn’t fit into any faction and she’s deemed a threat to the structure and order of society. She must choose a random faction and attempt to integrate as best she can before the authorities discover that she’s divergent.
This is a story of choice and consequence, it’s powerful, gripping, and a great choice for anyone put off by ultra-fantastical stories.
Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo
One criminal with one dangerous quest. Kaz Brekker is the only man for the job and he wants the fortune that lies at the end of it, but he can’t do it alone.
A group of dangerous, and sometimes fantastical, beings are all drawn together to pull off an unbelievable heist. Will they pull it off? And will they live to tell the tale?
Six of Crows is a gripping, dangerous read with so much to offer, a fabulous choice for anyone seeking thrill and action.
Girls of Paper and Fire by Natasha Ngan
The paper caste is the lowest imaginable and the members are persecuted and discriminated against daily. Annually, 8 paper girls are chosen to serve the king and although it’s a degrading position, it’s the best any of them could hope to achieve.
This year 9 girls were chosen and Lei is one of them. She has golden eyes which have captivated the king’s interest and must now train and serve alongside 8 others. But love is guaranteed to stand in her way and Lei wants revenge. The Girls of Paper and Fire is an excellent fantasy story with strong feminist undertones, perfect for any teens with an interest in women’s rights.
Seraphina by Rachel Hartman
Goredd is the beautiful setting of this rich book and it’s a land home to the unexpected harmony between dragons and humans. Seraphina follows a young girl with the same name, the newest member of the royal court.
But a brutal murder and a dangerous love story stand in the way of her and her well-kept secret.
The Hazel Wood by Melissa Albert
The Hazel Wood follows Alice, a 17-year-old girl whose life suddenly comes crashing down when her grandmother dies. Her grandmother was an author of fantasy books but when people begin appearing claiming to originate from her fantasy world, Alice wonders whether her grandmother’s stories were really fantasy at all.
When her mother goes missing and a mysterious message is found, Alice is sent on a long journey to discover the truth behind all the fantasy.
The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien
The Lord of the Rings is, in some countries, the best-selling series of all time. Tolkien’s intense and immersive descriptions allow you to dive headfirst into Middle Earth, his fantasy land, and through compelling characters, he sends some very powerful messages.
Frodo is a Hobbit, endearing country-type folk, who has just found a ring in his uncle’s home. When picking it up, Frodo feels completely consumed and a wave of darkness spreads over him. With the guidance of his wise wizard friend, Gandalf, Frodo realizes that the ring is powerful and dangerous and must be destroyed before it falls into the hands of the wrong person.
He must venture to the lava-filled, mountainous region of Mordor, where the ring was first created, but he can’t do it alone. A group of hobbits, elves, dwarves, wizards, and men are all sent off as part of the ‘fellowship’ to destroy this ring, but the quest is treacherous and many creatures, battles, and problems fall in their way.
Uprooted by Naomi Novik
Based on the darker side of Grimm’s fairy tales, Uprooted follows Agnieszka, a young woman who will do everything to stop the ‘protector’, a wizard named the Dragon who keeps order in her quaint little village.
But each decade, he takes a young girl to serve him and Agnieszka must stop him before he takes her best friend.
City of Bones by Cassandra Clare
City of Bones is the first in Clare’s Mortal Instruments series. It follows an ordinary girl named Clary, who goes out in New York City and witnesses a murder in a club. But this isn’t just any old murder. Clary witnesses something that is invisible to humans (mundanes).
Odd things then start happening to Clary and when she is introduced to Jace, a handsome shadowhunter, she enters a completely different world altogether, a world her mother tried so hard to keep her from.
She is immediately thrown into danger and she becomes the target of demons, werewolves, and vampires. She has no choice but to neglect her ‘normal’ life and join the shadowhunters as one of them, but will the others accept her? And will bad boy Jace help her or distract her?
The Reader by Traci Chee
The Reader follows Sefia, who is trained to survive after her father is murdered. Her aunt gives her key skills she will need to survive in the wild, but when she is kidnapped, Sefia is on her own.
With the help of one book, Sefia must discover who is behind her father’s murder and her aunt’s disappearance, but first, she must figure out how to survive alone.
A Wizard of Earthsea by Ursula K. Le Guin
Tutored by the Master Ogion, a 13-year-old boy, who is given the name Ged, must learn how to practice magic. But he soon grows tired of his slow progress and ventures to the Island of Roke, known for advanced wizardry.
There, his skills are nurtured and he becomes top in his class. But his ego will serve to be the most destructive power of all and soon he must face the consequences – he must battle the shadow. A Wizard of Earthsea will be a great choice for any magic lovers.
The Wrath and the Dawn by Renée Ahdieh
The Wrath and the Dawn centers around Khalid, an 18-year-old ruler of Khorasan. Each night he takes a new bride and each morning she is killed.
Shahrzad is tired of this cycle and hatches a plan to stop Khalid before all the young girls in the area are brutally killed. She volunteers herself, planning on staying alive and getting her revenge. But what she sees from the inside will change her perspective and when love stands in the way, little is possible.
The Kingdom of Back by Marie Lu
Following a young, inspiring female composer in 18th-century Europe, The Kingdom of Back doesn’t feel hugely fantastical. Nannerl Mozart has been told that she can only perform until she is ready for marriage.
As her dreams begin to fade with every year that passes, her brother Wolfgang begins to overshadow her. So, when a stranger appears from another fantasy realm, offering her a life of musical freedom, she can’t refuse. But little does she know what consequences she’ll have to face.
This extraordinary book merges historical fiction with fantasy, perfect for history or music lovers that are skeptical about fantasy.
Fireborne by Rosaria Munda
In a dystopian, fantastical land where a revolution has completely shifted the structures of society, Annie and Lee, despite their different backgrounds, create a blossoming friendship within their shared orphanage.
But when survivors emerge from the old regime, everything begins to change and Annie and Lee must fight for what they believe in, even if that means making terrible sacrifices.
Fireborne dabbles in dragon-based fantasy but predominantly tells a story of political uproar and unexpected friendship.
A Forest of a Thousand Lanterns by Julie C. Dao
A Forest of a Thousand Lanterns follows 18-year-old Xifeng in a story riddled with magic and grounded in ancient East-Asian tradition.
Xifeng has a dark destiny and her aunt, a cruel witch, knows about her glimmering future as empress. But to get there, Xifeng must face many humanitarian choices and must sacrifice love and family. It’s a great opportunity but is it worth losing everything?
Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling
Now, there’s a reason why the Harry Potter series is so widely adored throughout the world. Rowling’s characters are lovable, her plot lines are unpredictable, and her magical world is completely immersive.
The story follows a young orphan, who discovers that his parents were witches and wizards and that he belongs in a completely different world. After being thrown into the magical world almost immediately, Harry must find his feet, adapt, and learn magic as quickly as possible.
He gets help from his two best friends, Ron and Hermione, but almost as soon as he enters the gates to Hogwarts, his new magical school, he realizes that it’s not going to be an easy ride.
The first few books can feel a little immature or childish, mainly because they were written with child readers in mind. However, as the story progresses, the themes get darker and the characterizations become more complex, so stick with it to explore one of the most well-read and most-watched stories of all time – it’s a good one!
Sabriel by Garth Nix
The Old Kingdom is a land deeply manipulated by Free Magic and the living dead. It’s a dangerous place that Sabriel has avoided since her childhood. But now her father has gone missing, Sabriel must journey into the depths of the Old Kingdom and face dark secrets that will influence her own destiny.
Sabriel is a classic fantasy tale that follows a dangerous quest and tackles themes of companionship, love, secrecy, and magic along the way.
Whether you’re a total newbie, or whether you’re super experienced, we hope this list has provided you with some inspiration or maybe even a new book to add to your reading list. The fantasy genre is a brilliant one to delve into and even though some are fast-paced, they can help you relax and take your mind off the harsh realities of tough teenage years.
Frequently Asked Questions
Who is the best fantasy writer of all time?
This obviously depends on opinion, but J.R.R Tolkien is often called the ‘king of fantasy’ and his Lord of the Rings series is one of the highest-selling novel series of all time.
What book would you recommend to a 14-year-old?
Well, it depends on their preferences. If they’re into romance, then Meyer’s Twilight is a good option. If they’re into magic, then Rowling’s Harry Potter series is undeniably the best choice, and if they’re after action and danger, Collins’s The Hunger Games is a great recommendation.
Why is Lord of the Rings so highly-rated?
This series is an example of epic fantasy and encompasses so many different characters, themes, and fantasy elements. The story is highly gripping and includes a bit of everything, so it appeals to a huge variety of readers.
Are the Twilight books better than the films?
Well, as in any case, the books are a lot more detailed, so if you want in-depth characterizations, and immersive descriptions, the books are your best bet. However, the films do a good job of conveying Meyer’s story and in most cases, are spot-on with the characterizations. It depends on your preference, but we’d say that the books are better.
Is Harry Potter worth reading?
Absolutely. If you enjoy magic, great characters, and gripping storylines, you will love this series. Although the films are fantastic, Rowling’s books provide a completely new dimension to each segment of the story, providing readers with a whole load of additional information that the film-lovers will know nothing about. Even if you’ve watched the films and know the overarching story, we recommend reading these brilliant books.
What are the most popular fantasy books of all time?
1. The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien
2. The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien
3. Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone by J.K. Rowling
4. The Wheel of Time by Robert Jordan
5. A Song of Ice and Fire by George R.R. Martin
6. The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis
7. Good Omens by Terry Pratchett & Neil Gaiman
8. The Dark Tower by Stephen King
9. The Silmarillion by J.R.R. Tolkien
10. The Kingkiller Chronicle by Patrick Rothfuss
11. The Sword of Truth by Terry Goodkind
12. The Neverending Story by Michael Ende
13. The Inheritance Cycle by Christopher Paolini
14. The Belgariad by David Eddings
15. The Earthsea Cycle by Ursula K. Le Guin
16. The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant by Stephen R. Donaldson
17. The Mistborn Trilogy by Brandon Sanderson
18. The King’s Dark Tidings by Kel Kade
19. The Wheel of Time by Robert Jordan & Brandon Sanderson
20. The Riyria Revelations by Michael J. Sullivan
21. The Sword of Shannara by Terry Brooks
22. The Chronicles of Prydain by Lloyd Alexander
23. The Dark Elf Trilogy by R.A. Salvatore
24. The Sword of Truth by Terry Goodkind
25. The Dark Is Rising Sequence by Susan Cooper
26. The Chronicles of Amber by Roger Zelazny
27. The Wheel of Time by Robert Jordan
28. The Sword of Truth by Terry Goodkind
29. The Farseer Trilogy by Robin Hobb
30. The Chronicles of Amber by Roger Zelazny