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Fantasy in YA Fiction

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I grew up with an incredible love of high fantasy. How exciting to experience another world, where people often wielded swords and fought with magic! Early on, I consumed the Chronicles of Narnia, and I was obsessed with a number of other novels now out of print, but that featured worlds I could only ever visit in a book.

In my late teens, the Lord of the Rings made its movie debut. I read the trilogy, and although it sometimes seemed to go forever, I couldn’t stop until I’d completely absorbed them. That’s when I made the distinction that a fantasy must always be longer, for the reader is completely at the mercy of an entirely new and foreign world. Most recently, I’ve delved in to the world of Game of Thrones, interspersed through my reading of younger fare, and yep…it’s pretty mature! But once again, my mind is intrigued and challenged by the intricacies of this unfamiliar world.

So, for my fellow fantasy lovers, below are three of the YA fantasies I’ve read over the past year. While none are as innocent as the 1950s Chronicles of Narnia, or as complex as Lord of the Rings or Game of Thrones, they do hold their own.

Graceling by Kristin Cashore

This first book in a series about those who are “graced” has all the elements I love. A strong heroine who knows how to fight but also overprotects her heart. A love interest who has the qualities that make a good hero—strength and confidence in fighting, but a heart for family and those who need a champion. The world is intriguing, and kings make good and terrible decisions while dealing with those who are “graced.”

Of note…the book has violence, but nothing gratuitous, and talks about a girl’s first night with a boy. It is not explicit, but it may be a little mature for a more advanced Middle Grade Reader.

Girl of Fire and Thorns by Rae Carson

This fantasy felt unique in the fact that it has a Mediterranean feel to it, as opposed to a more Anglican type of society. I loved the almost Spanish influence in it, and the fact that it dived into politics. It covered quite a bit of adult themes concerning power and relationships, but the focus on the “Godstone” and the use of dark magic had some elements of Narnia that I loved.

This book has some pretty strong violence in it. However, there is no sex (although it is referred to). This is one that is certainly appropriate for most teens, although a quick read might be worthwhile to make sure.

Court of Thorn and Roses by Sarah J. Maas

This is high fantasy at its greatest. We have a world with humans living outside this vast, complex fae kingdom. Our heroin is a fighter, and at times, I can feel the exhaustion of what she is facing.

This book, the first in a series, is most definitely new adult. The violence is manageable, most likely, for younger teens. However, the sex scenes are rather explicit. Older teens may enjoy the maturity of the character, but this book has a wide appeal to adults as well as older teens because it is not necessarily YA.

I hope that helps you sort through some of the more recent high fantasy you’ll find on the YA bookshelf. Please share others in the comments section below!

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