Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten Books I’d Recommend to People Who Don’t Read YA/MG Fantasy
Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. It’s awesome. Every Tuesday, the lovely folks over at The Broke and the Bookish post a top ten list topic so that book lovers like you and me can pour over our shelves and make our own lists. You can check out all the other Top Ten Tuesday‘s on their site!
So I wanted to make this list a little more specific than just, “Top 10 books I’d recommend to people who don’t read YA” because that would be IMPOSSIBLE to narrow down to 10. For me. I figured that since I read lots of YA, and lots of fantasy on top of that, I’d pick some of my favorite YA fantasies. I included some middle-grade books, too, because some of the best fantasies for younger people are middle-grade, and I couldn’t leave them out! But a little disclaimer: I didn’t read a ton of fantasy when I was younger, and I can barely keep up with all the NEW YA fantasies that are coming out NOW, so this list might be a touch short on classics, simply because I haven’t had the chance to read them yet (the HORROR! The SHAME!).
Graceling/Fire, by Kristin Cashore. *Giddy claps* Kristin Cashore writes some of the best fantasies around. Her worlds are well-built and complex without being confusing, her plots are thrilling and move at a great pace, and her writing is awesome. But the real centerpieces of GRACELING and FIRE are the characters. Katsa and Po are two of my very favorite fantasy characters EVER, and their awesomely modern relationship sucked me right into their world. Fire and Brigan are amazing, too. Kristin also weaves lots of great themes into her stories, and her female characters are kick-ass, independent, and are coming to realize and wield their powers on their own terms. Huzzah!
The Goose Girl, by Shannon Hale. You guys, I LOVE Shannon Hale, and I particularly love her Books of Bayern series. THE GOOSE GIRL is far and away my favorite, though. It’s just so lovely and wonderful. Isi is one of those characters who is easy to love and root for, and she has this great quiet strength. But my favorite thing about THE GOOSE GIRL–and fantasies in general (especially high fantasies)–is how old the stories feel. Like I’m reading historical fiction of a place that was real, not the story of a made-up place that never existed. THE GOOSE GIRL is exactly like that.
Beka Cooper, by Tamora Pierce. This book is a stand-in for ALL Tamora Pierce because she is THE BOMB. Also, my list is apparently heavy on fantasies with ass-kicker female main characters. THIS IS EXCELLENT. Anyway, what’s great about Tamora’s books, too, is that they can appeal to a wide age-range of readers because some of her older series, like The Song of the Lioness, feature younger characters. She’s seriously just great, and I LOVE that we get to keep reading about Tortall! I like being able to both recognize the place I’m reading about while learning things about it I didn’t know before. AWESOME.
The Lost Conspiracy, by Frances Hardinge. This one is probably not a book I would recommend to someone who is *just* starting out with fantasy because it’s just so incredibly, wonderfully, vibrantly different in a not-always-easy-to-read way. A fantasy that takes place in a jungle? On an island? Where there are sentient volcanoes and people called the “Lost,” who can send their senses out from their bodies to see, hear, smell, etc. things far away from where they are? I KNOW. And, of course, there are the colorful and varied native tribes, including a people called the Lace, who are perpetually smiling. THE LOST CONSPIRACY is not only about a young Lace girl who must protect all that she knows and loves, but it brings THE SERIOUS because it subtly but deftly examines colonization and the prejudices and repression that accompany it. SO GOOD. (One complaint: No map? *sniffle* But I’m a NERD! I need maps!)
Eon/Eona, by Alison Goodman. There are so many fantastic things about this pair of books: mind-blowingly awesome Asian-inspired world, DRAGONS, twisty, dangerous political scheming, a BAMF main character, DRAGONS, a good and perfectly secondary romance (the better for Eona to shine, my dears), and DRAGONS. Honestly, these books blew me away and the world-building is incredibly thorough and enthralling. LOVE them. So much.
The Scorpio Races, by Maggie Stiefvater. This counts as a fantasy, right? I think it counts. How else might we classify those beautiful, terrible water horses? *Sigh* This book is amazing, and I think would be so great for people who are really hesitant about fantasy because the fantastical elements are sneaky and not overwhelming. I mean, Thisby seems real enough, modern-ish enough and basically normal, except for the horses. PLUS. Puck and Sean are two of the most perfectly swoony characters who have THE BEST relationship. *Sigh again* One of my very favorite favorites.
East, by Edith Pattou. I feel like I’m sighing a lot while compiling this list! I can’t help it. I can’t get enough of fantasies that make me sigh. EAST is certainly one of them. Like THE GOOSE GIRL, this book is just so gorgeous. The writing is beautiful and the story feels both old and new. There’s not many hard fantasy elements, so I think it would appeal to a more reluctant fantasy reader. (I know, I know…the Troll Queen. And the talking bear. But, you know, aside from those things….) Plus, Rose is a tremendous character: strong, determined, steadfast, wild, and brave. Aka, AWESOME.
The Iron King, by Julie Kagawa. Faeries are tricky things. Some people love them, and some people can’t stand them. I know people who LOVE fantasy but can’t do the faeries. I always mention the Iron Fey series to people who are not eager to read about what amounts, in their minds, basically to Tinkerbell. Because faeries are so much more than that, and these books are the best faerie books EVER. I myself wasn’t such a faerie lover before I read them, and now I’m hooked.
The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making, by Catherynne M. Valente. I couldn’t possibly put together this list without including some middle-grade fantasies. Because let’s be serious: middle-grade fantasies are often some of the best I read. And this one (please forgive me for not retyping the title!) is an exceptional example. It’s so imaginative and colorful! I love it something fierce. Also, this book has one of those great villains who’s conflicting to read about because you want to hate her, but once you get the 411, it’s pretty hard. LOVE that.
Fablehaven, by Brandon Mull. I thought about putting Percy Jackson on here, but I decided to go with Fablehaven instead. Guys, this series is pure, gripping fun. I love it. It’s a story about a young girl and her brother who go to live with their grandparents one summer, unaware that their grandparents are the keepers of one of only a handful of mystical creature preserves in the whole world. Shenanigans both good and evil ensue, and a conspiracy is revealed, leading to ALL THE DRAMA. The action and pace of the Fablehaven books are INSANE, and the stakes are always going up. Even though the MAIN main character is the girl, Kendra, her brother Seth is just as awesome and important, so FABLEHAVEN would be great for boys, too.
And I just can’t do a list of fantasy books without a shout to A Song of Ice and Fire. I’m obsessed. They’re awesome, twisty, crazy, dense, and chock full of characters who blur the line between good and bad all the time. Fantastic. That is all.
PS. I’m hoping very much that someone’s TTT is about zombies because I could totally be your test case. I don’t usually do the zombies and I need some recommendations!