YA Recommends–Fantasy

Published July 10, 2011 by caitlinnicoll

With all the hoopla surrounding a recent WSJ article which Shall Not Be Named, I noticed there are a lot of adult readers who, for various reasons have avoided/shied away from YA. This is the first in a series of posts where I recommend “gateway” novels– novels that will help  ease reluctant adult readers into the Behemoth known as the YA world.

First up are my fantasy recommendations. This is strictly traditional, or high fantasy. Urban fantasy and paranormal fantasy will be a separate post. I have left out my opinions on the books, but you can assume that by me recommending them, that I thought they were fantastic. Which they were.

All synopses were taken from Goodreads.

1. Eon  and Eona by Allison Goodman.

Eon has been studying the ancient art of Dragon Magic for four years, hoping he’ll be able to apprentice to one of the twelve energy dragons of good fortune. But he also has a dark secret. He is actually Eona, a sixteen-year-old girl who has been living a dangerous lie for the chance to become a Dragon-eye, the human link to an energy dragon’s power. It is forbidden for females to practice the Dragon Magic and, if discovered, Eon faces a terrible death. After a dazzling sword ceremony, Eon’s affinity with the twelve dragons catapults him into the treacherous world of the Imperial court, where he makes a powerful enemy, Lord Ido.

2. Plain Kate by Erin Bow

Plain Kate lives in a world of superstitions and curses, where a song can heal a wound and a shadow can work deep magic. As the wood-carver’s daughter, Kate held a carving knife before a spoon, and her wooden talismans are so fine that some even call her “witch-blade”: a dangerous nickname in a country where witches are hunted and burned in the square.
For Kate and her village have fallen on hard times. Kate’s father has died, leaving her alone in the world. And a mysterious fog now covers the countryside, ruining crops and spreading fear of hunger and sickness. The townspeople are looking for someone to blame, and their eyes have fallen on Kate.
Enter Linay, a stranger with a proposition: In exchange for her shadow, he’ll give Kate the means to escape the angry town, and what’s more, he’ll grant her heart’s wish. It’s a chance for her to start over, to find a home, a family, a place to belong. But Kate soon realizes she can’t live shadowless forever — and that Linay’s designs are darker than she ever dreamed.

3. Silver Phoenix by Cindy Pon

No one wanted Ai Ling. And deep down she is relieved—despite the dishonor she has brought upon her family—to be unbetrothed and free, not some stranger’s subservient bride banished to the inner quarters.
But now, something is after her. Something terrifying—a force she cannot comprehend. And as pieces of the puzzle start to fit together, Ai Ling begins to understand that her journey to the Palace of Fragrant Dreams isn’t only a quest to find her beloved father but a venture with stakes larger than she could have imagined.

Silver Phoenix is like a story plucked straight from the Arabian Nights. Which, is a very good thing. The Kingdom of Xian is a refreshing change from the “European Middle Ages Default” that is so prevalent in many fantasies.

4. Incarceron by Catherine Fisher

Incarceron is a prison so vast that it contains not only cells, but also metal forests, dilapidated cities, and vast wilderness. Finn, a seventeen-year-old prisoner, has no memory of his childhood and is sure that he came from Outside Incarceron. Very few prisoners believe that there is an Outside, however, which makes escape seems impossible.
And then Finn finds a crystal key that allows him to communicate with a girl named Claudia. She claims to live Outside – she is the daughter of the Warden of Incarceron, and doomed to an arranged marriage. Finn is determined to escape the prison and Claudia believes she can help him. But they don’t realize that there is more to Incarceron than meets the eye, and escape will take their greatest courage and cost more than they know. Because Incarceron is alive.

5. His Dark Materials by Philip Pullman

Synopsis to The Golden Compass: In a landmark epic of fantasy and storytelling, Philip Pullman invites readers into a world as convincing and thoroughly realized as Narnia, Earthsea, or Redwall. Here lives an orphaned ward named Lyra Belacqua, whose carefree life among the scholars at Oxford’s Jordan College is shattered by the arrival of two powerful visitors. First, her fearsome uncle, Lord Asriel, appears with evidence of mystery and danger in the far North, including photographs of a mysterious celestial phenomenon called Dust and the dim outline of a city suspended in the Aurora Borealis that he suspects is part of an alternate universe. He leaves Lyra in the care of Mrs. Coulter, an enigmatic scholar and explorer who offers to give Lyra the attention her uncle has long refused her. In this multilayered narrative, however, nothing is as it seems. Lyra sets out for the top of the world in search of her kidnapped playmate, Roger, bearing a rare truth-telling instrument, the compass of the title. All around her children are disappearing, victims of so-called “Gobblers”, and being used as subjects in terrible experiments that separate humans from their daemons, creatures that reflect each person’s inner being. And somehow, both Lord Asriel and Mrs. Coulter are involved.

I intentionally left out HP, only because everyone already knows of it’s sheer awesomeness. If you have no idea what in the world HP is, I am going to assume you live a very lonely existence under a large rock at the bottom of the Mariana Trench. If that is the case, then I should tell you now that Sebastian was lying when he said it was much better under down where its wetter. I avoided HP for years, solely because EVERYONE was obsessed with and and I avoid trends as much as humanly possible. I rebel for the sake of rebelling (which, I assure you is the cause of every single one of my father’s gray hairs). A rebel without a cause, if you will. When it did finally pick it up, all I could say was: “Dear God, I am an idiot! This is amazing!” I then proceeded to read all 7 books in near record time.

Does anyone else have any good YA fantasy suggestions?


12 comments on “YA Recommends–Fantasy

  • I don’t shy away from YA at all, it’s most of what I read. But, I thought I’d chime in.

    Eon/Eona are so on my list to read! I can’t wait, all though I’ve been having a hard time finding Eon in a store.

    I really disliked Incarceron. It’s actually on my blog right now as one of my least favorites. The world was beautiful, brilliant actually, but I wasn’t hooked enough characters to put Sapphique on my urgent list. Maybe someday….


    • I know you can get Eon on Amazon. I loaned both of them from the library.

      I can see why you wouldn’t like the characters. They weren’t my favorite either, but I liked the world well enough to be a little forgiving. I actually haven’t read Sapphique either. There are just way too many books in my TBR pile.

    • Your welcome!

      Eon and Eona are amazing. I was a little disappointed the way Eona ended, only because to me it felt rushed. Silver Phoenix reminded me of Arabian Nights with the world-building and descriptions.

      • Really? I heard somewhere that Eon was one tough heroine and Ai Ling too. Sliver Phoneix really peaked my interested when you wrote the setting was a lot different than most fanasty novels. I have been looking for books that stand out in a crowd for sometime now. Also, if you’re looking for some YA in Norse mythology/folklore I recommend Stork by Wendy Delsol. It’s a pretty cool read and has a refreshing concept than most fanasty novels as well. 🙂

  • I shall add The Golden Compass to my list. I’ve heard quite a lot about it but haven’t gotten around to reading it.

    That being said, my reading list is currently composed of 50+ books, so it may take a while before I get to it. Besides, I’m making my way through HP for the first time now. Heh.

  • Hm…I would probably recommend the Dragonlance series (the earlier ones). Particularly the Dragonlance Chronicles (the first trilogy) and the Dragonlance Legends (the second trilogy). It started going downhill after that, but those first two trilogies are great. Dragonlance Legends is particularly amazing, but you need to read Chronicles before it.

    What else…have you read the Silverwing Trilogy (Kenneth Oppel)? It’s more MG than YA, but I remember it being good.

    I also liked The Inheritance Cycle (Eragon, Eldest, etc…), though it seemed like a combination of Star Wars and Lord of the Rings.

      • It’s been a while since I’ve read the 3rd one (I only remember bits and pieces), but I suppose your brother’s statement stands. Then again, the middle book(s) in a series with a prominent overarching plot do tend to waver a bit. I hear the last book is coming out soon. I’ll probably end up reading some summaries beforehand to jog my memory.

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