As we all know the fantasy genre is ripe with epic series… but sometimes we do not want to commit to such a task so here is my list for the best YA fantasy stand-alone books! Make sure to put your favorites in the comments!
Soundless by Richelle Mead
Soundless by Richelle Mead is probably the most unique of all the books in this list and arguably my favorite!
“For as long as Fei can remember, no one in her village has been able to hear. Rocky terrain and frequent avalanches make it impossible to leave the village, so Fei and her people are at the mercy of a zipline that carries food up the treacherous cliffs from Beiguo, a mysterious faraway kingdom.
When villagers begin to lose their sight, deliveries from the zipline shrink. Many go hungry. Fei and all the people she loves are plunged into crisis, with nothing to look forward to but darkness and starvation. Until one night, Fei is awoken by a searing noise. Sound becomes her weapon.
Fei sets out to uncover what’s happened to her and to fight the dangers threatening her village. A handsome miner with a revolutionary spirit accompanies Fei on her quest, bringing with him new risks and the possibility of romance. They embark on a majestic journey from the peak of their jagged mountain village to the valley of Beiguo, where a startling truth will change their lives forever…
The characters use sign language to communicate and even without much dialogue in the first half of the story Richelle Mead does a great job of helping the reader truly understand the feelings of the characters. This is also a pretty low fantasy and a great start for anyone super new to fantasy!
Heartless by Marissa Meyer
I LOVE a good origin story and this one delivered!
“Long before she was the terror of Wonderland—the infamous Queen of Hearts—she was just a girl who wanted to fall in love.
Catherine may be one of the most desired girls in Wonderland, and a favorite of the unmarried King of Hearts, but her interests lie elsewhere. A talented baker, all she wants is to open a shop with her best friend. But according to her mother, such a goal is unthinkable for the young woman who could be the next queen.
Then Cath meets Jest, the handsome and mysterious court joker. For the first time, she feels the pull of true attraction. At the risk of offending the king and infuriating her parents, she and Jest enter into an intense, secret courtship. Cath is determined to define her own destiny and fall in love on her terms. But in a land thriving with magic, madness, and monsters, fate has other plans.”
You wouldn’t believe it, but this absolutely makes you sympathize with Catherine! Marissa Meyer also takes other smaller fairy tales and includes those characters in this story and it is done beautifully!! This is right you alley if you are a fan of Once Upon A Time!!
Tiger Lily by Jodi Lynn Anderson
I told you I loved a good origin story and UGH this is might just be better than the last even though they are both so good!! Jodi Lynn Anderson doesn’t stray as much from the original fairy tale as much as Heartless and I loved that!! There are LGBT+ Characters in this story as well which is amazing!
“Before Peter Pan belonged to Wendy, he belonged to the girl with the crow feather in her hair.. Fifteen-year-old Tiger Lily doesn’t believe in love stories or happy endings. Then she meets the alluring teenage Peter Pan in the forbidden woods of Neverland and immediately falls under his spell.
Peter is unlike anyone she’s ever known. Impetuous and brave, he both scares and enthralls her. As the leader of the Lost Boys, the most fearsome of Neverland’s inhabitants, Peter is an unthinkable match for Tiger Lily. Soon, she is risking everything—her family, her future—to be with him.
With enemies threatening to tear them apart, the lovers seem doomed. But it’s the arrival of Wendy Darling, an English girl who’s everything Tiger Lily is not, that leads Tiger Lily to discover that the most dangerous enemies can live inside even the most loyal and loving heart.”
The Glass Arrow by Kristen Simmons
Everything about this books was amazing! The world building, the action, the perfect amount of romance! The main character Aya is spirited and wild, she is a fighter in the truest sense of the word and knows exactly what she needs to do to survive! Kristen Simmons knows exactly how to write realistic and likeable characters and even though this is a work of Fantasy you feel like these situations the characters are in are so relatable! Perfect for fans of The Handmaids Tale!
“This is the story of Aya, who lives with a small group of women on the run from the men who hunt them, men who want to auction off breeding rights to the highest bidder.
In a world where females are scarce and are hunted, then bought and sold at market for their breeding rights, 15-year old Aya has learned how to hide. With a ragtag bunch of other women and girls, she has successfully avoided capture and eked out a nomadic but free existence in the mountains. But when Aya’s luck runs out and she’s caught by a group of businessmen on a hunting expedition, fighting to survive takes on a whole new meaning. “
Forest of a Thousand Lanterns by Julie C. Dao
A ruthless main character, a dark plot and yet another origin story!! There was nothing I didn’t love about Forest of a Thousand Lanterns!!
“An East Asian fantasy reimagining of The Evil Queen legend about one peasant girl’s quest to become Empress–and the darkness she must unleash to achieve her destiny.
Eighteen-year-old Xifeng is beautiful. The stars say she is destined for greatness, that she is meant to be Empress of Feng Lu. But only if she embraces the darkness within her. Growing up as a peasant in a forgotten village on the edge of the map, Xifeng longs to fulfill the destiny promised to her by her cruel aunt, the witch Guma, who has read the cards and seen glimmers of Xifeng’s majestic future. But is the price of the throne too high?
Because in order to achieve greatness, she must spurn the young man who loves her and exploit the callous magic that runs through her veins–sorcery fueled by eating the hearts of the recently killed. For the god who has sent her on this journey will not be satisfied until his power is absolute.”
The Siren by Kiera Cass
Kiera Cass is know for her famous Selection Series and of course she just released The Betrothed but before all that she self published (and then later republished with HarperTeen) The Siren! This story at it’s heart is a love story not just romance but sibling, friendship and parental! It really does warm your heartstrings!
“Years ago, Kahlen was rescued from drowning by the Ocean. To repay her debt, she has served as a Siren ever since, using her voice to lure countless strangers to their deaths. Though a single word from Kahlen can kill, she can’t resist spending her days on land, watching ordinary people and longing for the day when she will be able to speak and laugh and live freely among them again.
Kahlen is resigned to finishing her sentence in solitude…until she meets Akinli. Handsome, caring, and kind, Akinli is everything Kahlen ever dreamed of. And though she can’t talk to him, they soon forge a connection neither of them can deny…and Kahlen doesn’t want to.
Falling in love with a human breaks all the Ocean’s rules, and if the Ocean discovers Kahlen’s feelings, she’ll be forced to leave Akinli for good. But for the first time in a lifetime of following the rules, Kahlen is determined to follow her heart.”
The Dreamers by Karen Thompson Walker
Ok ok ok… I am finally getting away from the Fairy Tale Retellings. . . for now! This story does have a touch more Sci Fi and Horror to it but it was good enough to land on this list!
“In an isolated college town in the hills of Southern California, a freshman girl stumbles into her dorm room, falls asleep—and doesn’t wake up. She sleeps through the morning, into the evening. Her roommate, Mei, cannot rouse her. Neither can the paramedics who carry her away, nor the perplexed doctors at the hospital. Then a second girl falls asleep, and then another, and panic takes hold of the college and spreads to the town. As the number of cases multiplies, classes are canceled, and stores begin to run out of supplies. A quarantine is established. The National Guard is summoned.
Mei, an outsider in the cliquish hierarchy of dorm life, finds herself thrust together with an eccentric, idealistic classmate. Two visiting professors try to protect their newborn baby as the once-quiet streets descend into chaos. A father succumbs to the illness, leaving his daughters to fend for themselves. And at the hospital, a new life grows within a college girl, unbeknownst to her—even as she sleeps. A psychiatrist, summoned from Los Angeles, attempts to make sense of the illness as it spreads through the town. Those infected are displaying unusual levels of brain activity, more than has ever been recorded. They are dreaming heightened dreams—but of what?”
House of Salt and Sorrows by Erin A. Craig
Again this is a fantasy with a touch of horror to it but still so amazing! There is an unreliable narrator which is one of my favorite tropes in fiction, it leaves you guessing at every turn and the religious/magic system in this story is one of the best!
“Annaleigh lives a sheltered life at Highmoor, a manor by the sea, with her sisters, their father, and stepmother. Once they were twelve, but loneliness fills the grand halls now that four of the girls’ lives have been cut short. Each death was more tragic than the last—the plague, a plummeting fall, a drowning, a slippery plunge—and there are whispers throughout the surrounding villages that the family is cursed by the gods.
Disturbed by a series of ghostly visions, Annaleigh becomes increasingly suspicious that the deaths were no accidents. Her sisters have been sneaking out every night to attend glittering balls, dancing until dawn in silk gowns and shimmering slippers, and Annaleigh isn’t sure whether to try to stop them or to join their forbidden trysts. Because who—or what—are they really dancing with?
When Annaleigh’s involvement with a mysterious stranger who has secrets of his own intensifies, it’s a race to unravel the darkness that has fallen over her family—before it claims her next.”
The Forbidden Wish by Jessica Khoury
This is an amazing read for any lover of the Disney version of Aladdin thee are small references to the movie and Zahra is one of the best main characters I have ever read! She is captivating and strong! Her story will not disappoint.
“When Aladdin discovers Zahra’s jinni lamp, Zahra is thrust back into a world she hasn’t seen in hundreds of years—a world where magic is forbidden and Zahra’s very existence is illegal. She must disguise herself to stay alive, using ancient shape-shifting magic, until her new master has selected his three wishes.
But when the King of the Jinn offers Zahra a chance to be free of her lamp forever, she seizes the opportunity—only to discover she is falling in love with Aladdin. When saving herself means betraying him, Zahra must decide once and for all: is winning her freedom worth losing her heart?
As time unravels and her enemies close in, Zahra finds herself suspended between danger and desire in this dazzling retelling of Aladdin from acclaimed author Jessica Khoury.”
The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern
I absolutely saved the best for last! The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern is technically and Adult Fantasy book but it crosses over to the YA reader base so well! This story is so whimsical, the ambiance the author puts you into makes you want to escape and never come out! Just saying I need my all Black Red and White travelling circus! “The circus arrives without warning. No announcements precede it. It is simply there, when yesterday it was not. Within the black-and-white striped canvas tents is an utterly unique experience full of breathtaking amazements. It is called Le Cirque des Rêves, and it is only open at night.
But behind the scenes, a fierce competition is underway—a duel between two young magicians, Celia and Marco, who have been trained since childhood expressly for this purpose by their mercurial instructors. Unbeknownst to them, this is a game in which only one can be left standing, and the circus is but the stage for a remarkable battle of imagination and will. Despite themselves, however, Celia and Marco tumble headfirst into love—a deep, magical love that makes the lights flicker and the room grow warm whenever they so much as brush hands.
True love or not, the game must play out, and the fates of everyone involved, from the cast of extraordinary circus performers to the patrons, hang in the balance, suspended as precariously as the daring acrobats overhead.”
What did you think of my list? Tell me in the comments and make sure to leave me your recommendations as well!
Looking for more great lists?
Check out our list of fantasy books by Black authors.