young adult epic fantasy recommendations

9 Young Adult Epic Fantasy recommendations

These are my young adult epic fantasy recommendations. It doesn’t matter if you are looking for young adult epic fantasy because you want a recommendation for a younger reader or if you just want a less dark story, than adult epic fantasy tend to be. You might also enjoy the easy to read language or the uncomplicated story structure. It doesn’t matter why you enjoy young adult epic fantasy, you might find some you like her.

To me young adult epic fantasy is about overcoming insurmountable odds, about saving the world or at least your country or community. They are always set in a secondary fantasy world and have magic and possibly some supernatural creatures as well. Sometimes it is about a fight between good and evil, but you are definitely rooting for the protagonists and want see them succeed.

You can also find my list of adult epic fantasy recommendations, if that is what you are looking for.

Graceling by Kristin Cashore

Series: Graceling Realm
Young adult
This is kind of fantasy with people with superpowers . There is more than one protagonist in the series. The series is about growing into your skill and learning to work with what you got. It is also about fighting the good fight rather than the easy one. It is a series about finding friendship in unlikely places and making the best of a sucky situation. About taking hand of your own destiny. It has been a while since I read the first book so I can’t say much more other than it is really good. This series definitely gets stronger as it progresses. So far book 3 is the the book that has turned me back to epic fantasy.

Sandry’s Book (or The Magic in the Weaving) by Tamora Pierce

Serie: Circle of Magic
Young adult/middle grade
The series is about four twelve-year-old children (three girls and a boy) who is taken to a temple where they study magic. While this is a magic school book series, it feels nothing like Harry Potter. The problems they help solve are much more real and dire – no silly dangerous competitions. There are however room for them to be children as well. They do however grow into teenagers pretty quickly and they are quite mature. The books are all about friendship, owning your own agency and knowing your limits. Quite a few of the characters are queer by the way – not that is apparent in the first book but it becomes important as they grows older. Read my full review

Sandry’s Book (or The Magic in the Weaving) by Tamora Pierce

First Test by Tamora Pierce

Series: Protector of the Small
Young adult
This book is set in Pierce’s Tortall universe which is a classic fantasy world, and I think it works better then Alanna when reading it as an adult. First Test is about Keladry who wants to become a knight in a world where only one other woman has done that in 200 years and the other woman disguised as a boy to make it. Keladry wants to train as a knight with the boys. It is about determination, about not accepting the glass ceiling, about working within a hostile organization, about fighting bullies. It is also a book about friendship and about a teenage girl with male friends who she is not romantically involved with. Keladry is focused and determined and so freaking kickass. I love this book and this series.

First Test by Tamora Pierce

Dragonsong by Anne McCaffrey

Series: Pern: Harper Hall
Young adult
Dragonsong is about following your passion for art and escaping the pressures of a small-town traditional society. Menolly is very musically talented to the point of progeny but her father is enough of a traditional to think that she as a girl should not pursue a man’s art like music – that it would be a shame for the family if anyone from outside found out that she was doing something as unfeminine as that. He is also violent but to Menolly that is secondary to his oppression of her musical talent. The book is set in the amazing sci-fi/fantasy world Pern where dragons fight to keep their world save with fire and where  fire lizards fly free along the coastline. It is another book about a strong female protagonist but instead of fighting with a sword, she works through song and music. It is very much a book about gender roles and about a cosmopolitan attitude vs. a traditional attitude towards the world.

Dragonsong by Anne McCaffrey

The Amulet of Samarkand by Jonathan Stroud

Series: Bartimaeus
Young adult
This book is set in a steampunkish version of London where the city is ruled by wizards who is working with djinns under their control. The protagonist Nathaniel is training with one of the wizards and gets wrapped up in political plots and intrigue together with one of the djinns. I love the awkwardness and self-confidence of Nathaniel. He is very much a teenage boy with all that entangles but he is also a quite capable young man. The book has a very strong sense of place, which means that it is sometimes shelved as urban fantasy but the scope of the story puts it in the realm of epic fantasy to me. He is trying to save the realm after all. It at the same times feels very different and very familiar. It is a book that made me smile and think.

The Shamer’s Daughter by Lene Kaaberbøl

Series: The Shamer Chronicles
Young adult
Dina has the power to make other people feel shame for their actions. She is also an isolated teenage girl living in the countryside mistrusted by her peers because of her powers. Her mother gets involved in a murder case and Dina gets dragged in as well. It has been quite some time since For a young adult book it is quite grim dark but it do have dragons.

The Shamer's Daughter by Lene Kaaberbøl

The Wee Free Men by Terry Pratchett

Series: Discworld – Tiffany Aching
Young Adult
Epic fantasy, doesn’t have to be about saving the world, right? Good when we agree. I couldn’t make this list without putting a Discworld book on here. To me The Wee Free Men is one of the best Discworld books, simply because I find the Wee Free Men hilarious. I can strongly recommend getting it on audiobook, unless you are really good at reading accents course they are a big part of the humor. Tiffany Aching is a witch though she may not know it when the book starts out and in the Discworld universe being a witch is all about getting things done. It is all about attitude and about having the right kind of headgear. The Wee Free Men is a good entry point to the Discworld series if you don’t want to drag you self though the first Pratchett books that frankly are not all that amazing, they are good, but not compared by some of the later ones. Speaking of I also recommend Monstrous Regiment.Young Adult

Storm Glass by Maria V. Snyder

Series: Glass
Young Adult
This is not the first book in Snyder’s universe, but it is the sub-series in the universe that I like best so far. Opal can work magic in glass and glass making plays a major role in the series. I like craft in books and I love to be inside the head of artists or craftsmen – seeing the world through their eyes. Opel is attending a magic academy (again totally unlike Harry Potter) and struggling to fit in. It is a fast read and an entertaining one. The book is full of political intrigue, mystery and there is a romance in there as well and the magic system is really interesting.

The Hero and the Crown by Robin McKinley

Series: Damar
Young adult/middle grade
I have not reread this one since I was around 14. I loved it as a young teenager. Other than Alanna it was one of the few books I had read at the time where a girl kicked ass. It is such a normal thing in fiction today, but back then it wasn’t. Aerin is no good at girly things such as sewing so when she decides to go fight dragons on her own. It goes poorly and she copes, gets better and gets back up on the horse. Her kingdom is terribly poor (she has to fix her own socks and paper is precious), which is also a really unusual detail but was quite normal in 15-1600s Europe in the smaller kingdoms.

This review was originally posted: February 14, 2014. Updated and edited July 2, 2023





One response to “9 Young Adult Epic Fantasy recommendations”

  1. […] is always magic and there is likely to be creatures we don’t know from our world. Unlike young adult epic fantasy it might not be clear who the bad guys are and the morals might be a lot more grey. That is not to […]

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