Anyone who has been paying attention to young adult fiction lately will know that fantasy is all the rage. In creating a new, fantastic world, authors are able to explore real world scenarios and themes in a removed setting, making them accessible on a moral level for teens. Lately, however, dystopian fantasy, such as The Hunger Games and the Divergent trilogy, has been filling the market. But what about for those teens that just want some good old fashioned wizards, elves, and orcs? Better Reading has compiled a list of essential high fantasy series for your magic loving and book devouring teenager.
The Sword of Shannara trilogy by Terry Brooks
Recently adapted into The Shannara Chronicles on Netflix Australia, The Sword of Shannara trilogy is simply the first three books published in a series spanning over thirty novels – so if you can get into the first book (The Sword of Shannara), you’ll be busy for quite a while! Set in an expansive world combining magic and primitive technology, and spanning thousands of years, there are all sorts of adventures in the Four Lands to get lost in. The Sword of Shannara trilogy were the first three published in the world, and a great place to start, following brothers Shea and Flick on their journey to retrieve the Sword of Shannara to defeat the Warlock Lord threatening their home. An absolute classic, any fantasy loving teen over 16 would be thrilled by this collection.
The Red Queen series by Victoria Aveyard
This bestselling series began with Red Queen, Aveyard’s debut novel. In a world with a caste system, dividing the impoverished Reds from the magical Silvers, the Red Queen series follows Red girl Mare as she becomes involved in an insurgence against the Silvers and the monarchy, seeking justice and equality for all. This is a perfect breach for any reader who loves The Hunger Games but has not delved into traditional fantasy before. With three in the series so far, readers have a lot of adventure ahead of them. Red Queen is recommended for readers over 14.
The Bridei Chronicles by Juliet Marillier
Almost criminally unknown, Juliet Marillier spins a wonderful world of history, myth come to life, romance, and friendship. Her Bridei Chronicles mixes history and fantasy to a dream-like degree, where gods and magic seem to have existed in tandem with the ancient Celts. A great deal of research into the Celts and the Picts has gone into this series, with actual historical figures cropping up in the adventures of Bridei, a young boy who is sent to be tutored by an ancient and powerful druid. The sudden arrival of a fairy child will change his life. The Bridei Chronicles is perfect for fans of history and mythology over 15.
The Lumatere Chronicles by Melina Marchetta
From much loved Sydney-based author Melina Marchetta, who wrote Looking for Alibrandi and On the Jellicoe Road, Finnikin on the Rock is her first foray into young adult fantasy. Finnkin, a young boy who is perhaps a little stubborn but overall brave, has been away with his guardian for ten years, after the royal family was killed and a curse placed on the land of Lumatere. From there, with a young priestess, Finnikin goes on adventures to lift the curse and restore justice to Lumatere – and find his family in the meantime. For readers who are more interested in characters than the expansiveness of the world, this series (currently at three books) is perfectly suited to those over 14.
The Witches of Eileanan series by Kate Forsyth
A wonderful, delicately written series with six books and a side trilogy, The Witches of Eileanan explores a Celtic land where witches and wizards have been cast out and forbidden from practicing their magic. Following twins Isabeau and Iseult as they seek to restore magic to its rightful place in the world and accomplish their own destinies. There are dragons, there’s magic, there’s intrigue, politics, and romance – while this series has enough jammed into it to suit any reader over 16, it will especially find a sweet spot in the hearts of any girls looking for strong, magical female protagonists.
The Earthsea Cycle by Ursula Le Guin
First published in 1968, the language of A Wizard of Earthsea could seem dry to some readers, but for those who can push through, they will be drawn into a world where scattered islands are surrounded by an infinitely large and forbidding sea. Winning multiple awards, the story of Ged will suck you right in. Born a small town boy but discovering great powers, he joins the school of wizardry, and during a magical duel, accidentally releases a shadow creature that is hellbent on attacking him. The story of Ged and characters of Earthsea will stay with you long after you’ve finished the book, and luckily there are six books in the cycle for readers over 13 to sink their teeth into.
His Dark Materials by Phillip Pullman
This famous series, beginning with The Golden Compass and adapted into a film, with a television series on the way, needs very little introduction. The brave and spirited Lyra and her daemon (an animal shaped spirit that speaks English and walks alongside you), along with friend Will, go on a coming-of-age adventure as they wander through many strange parallel universes. Filled with magic and witches, the series also contemplates science and religion, sparking great discussions for teens over 13. Read the trilogy before the companion series, The Book of Dust, is released October 2017.
The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien
What kind of fantasy list would this be without arguably the most famous trilogy in the world? The Lord of the Rings teaches essential lessons about friendship, loyalty, perseverance and dedication, and by the end of the series you will feel as if you were carrying the weight of the Ring with Frodo every step of the way. Ages 14 and over will adore the magic, battles, and magical creatures, as well as the expansive world and touching moments of friendship. This is essential reading for anyone who loves fantasy, as it has spawned and inspired fantasy for the second half of the twentieth century. If you have not read it, read it. If you have, read it again and again.
Which are your favourite fantasy series? Let us know in the comments below.