A Beginner’s Guide to Young Adult Fantasy

By Olivia Merrick

When the pandemic first started up, I found myself returning to my love of reading, all the way back from the beginning of middle school. I started out reading contemporary novels (literature set in our modern worlds), but found myself becoming strongly drawn to young adult fantasy. It’s one of the most intimidating genres, set in fictional worlds with a plethora of history, geography, and rules that you have to understand in order to fully appreciate the work. After six months of reading young adult fantasy non-stop, I have discovered the perfect collection of books, from standalones to series, so that you can easily enjoy one of the most incredible sides of literature.

The Infernal Devices– Cassandra Clare

Trigger Warnings: Abduction, Captivity, Violence, Torture, Scenes of People Intentionally Cutting Each Other for Their Blood, Death, Murder, and War Themes

My favorite series of all time, The Infernal Devices follows Tessa Gray, a seventeen year old with unmatched powers who arrives in London to try and find her older brother who has disappeared. Along the way, Tessa is offered refuge in a branch of a Shadowhunters Institute, home to a collection of appointed warriors, and learns that her inconspicuous past may not have been as normal as she thought. Set in the 1860s, The Infernal Devices is an easy-to-follow trilogy with dynamic characters who make the already outstanding books incredible. These books are certainly an emotional rollercoaster and will make you laugh and cry, but more importantly, fall in love with every single character.

Six of Crows– Leigh Bardugo

Trigger Warnings: Violence, Death, Graphic Injury, Fantasy Drug Abuse, Rape/Sex Trafficking/Childhood Sexual Assault (backstory, not in any scenes), Guns, Slavery, Racism, and Genocide

This was the first true fantasy duology I ever read, and it still is one of the best stories I have ever read. Six of Crows is set in Ketterdam, a fictional world inspired by 1800s Russia.  It follows a ragtag group of outcast criminals on a heist adventure. Although the first book has a bit of a slow beginning, everything after that is action packed and full of interwoven plots. Much like The Infernal Devices, the characters in Six of Crows are the primary reason I recommend these books so strongly, as they’re all incredibly likeable, even when they make mistakes, and the extent to which all of them are developed is remarkable. Full of overcoming dark pasts and complex relationships, topped off with some of my favorite romances, Six of Crows is truly a once in a lifetime read.

The Folk of the Air– Holly Black

Trigger Warnings: Alcoholism, Abandonment, Bullying, Abuse, Mention of Drug Use, Harassment, Violence, and Death

If you have a fantasy-loving friend and have ever heard them use the word Fae, this is the type of world they are talking about. The Folk of the Air trilogy follows Jude Duarte and her attempt to overthrow the High King of Elfhame. One of the things that makes these books unique is the first person perspective from which the books are written, and Jude certainly makes an incredible story teller. In addition to that, The Folk of the Air has the most clear and easy to follow world building I have ever read, making it perfect for anyone who feels intimidated by the sheer complexity of the fantasy genre. These books have one of the most incredible enemies to lovers romances I have ever read, and the extent of betrayal, deep-rooted anger, and thirst for power within each character make The Folk of the Air one of the best fantasy trilogies of all time.