10 Must-Read YA Historical Fantasy Books
Calling all bookworms and fantasy enthusiasts! If you’re a fan of captivating tales that blend history with a touch of magic, then you’re in for a treat. In this blog post, we’ve curated a list of 10 must-read YA historical fantasy books that will transport you to enchanting worlds filled with adventure, romance, and mystique. From epic battles fought in ancient kingdoms to secret societies hiding amidst the shadows of historical events, these novels offer a delightful escape into the past, sprinkled with a dash of the extraordinary. So, grab a cozy blanket, curl up with your favorite reading spot, and prepare to embark on a journey through time and imagination with these captivating page-turners!
1. The Book Thief By: Markus Zusak
In the heart of Nazi Germany, where death itself is relentless, Liesel embarks on a journey that will change her life forever. It all begins when she uncovers a hidden treasure buried beneath the snow: The Gravedigger’s Handbook. This accidental act of book thievery ignites a passion for words within her, as Liesel dives into a forbidden world of literature.
Guided by her foster father, a compassionate accordion player, Liesel delves into the realm of reading, finding solace and escape within the pages she so boldly acquires. With a fearless determination, she pilfers books from Nazi book burnings and the forbidden library of the mayor’s wife. But in these treacherous times, danger lurks around every corner.
When Liesel’s foster family takes in a Jewish refugee, her world both expands and contracts in unimaginable ways. As the war rages on, Liesel finds herself caught between love, loss, and the power of words. With mesmerizing prose that sears with emotion, acclaimed author Markus Zusak weaves a timeless tale that will captivate readers for generations to come. “The Book Thief” stands as a testament to the enduring strength of the human spirit amidst the darkest of times.
2. The Kingdom of Back By: Marie Lu
“The Kingdom of Back” by Marie Lu is a captivating YA historical fantasy novel that follows the life of Nannerl Mozart, the older sister of the renowned composer Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. Set in eighteenth-century Europe, Nannerl possesses an extraordinary gift for music and dreams of leaving a lasting legacy as a composer. However, societal norms and her father’s oppressive expectations confine her to performing until she becomes of marriageable age.
As Nannerl’s aspirations dwindle over time, her younger brother’s musical talents soar, overshadowing her own. Just when all hope seems lost, a mysterious stranger arrives from a magical realm, presenting Nannerl with an enticing proposition. He offers to grant her deepest wish, but the price she must pay could be devastating.
Marie Lu weaves together a tale of ambition, sibling rivalry, and the allure of forbidden possibilities. Readers are transported to a world where music and magic intertwine, exploring Nannerl’s struggle to find her own voice and define her identity within a restrictive society. “The Kingdom of Back” immerses readers in a vivid historical backdrop while infusing it with elements of fantasy, creating a mesmerizing story of sacrifice, determination, and the power of dreams.
3. Long as the Lemon Trees Grow By: Zoulfa Katouh
As Long as the Lemon Trees Grow by Zoulfa Katouh is a gripping YA historical fantasy set against the backdrop of the Syrian conflict. Salama Kassab, once a pharmacy student leading a normal life, now finds herself volunteering at a hospital in Homs, witnessing the daily influx of wounded victims. Fearful for her sister-in-law Layla, who is about to give birth, Salama yearns to escape the country. Her anxiety takes physical form in the shape of Khawf, an imagined companion who constantly shadows her, determined to protect her.
Caught between her loyalty to her country and her desire to survive, Salama is faced with a difficult decision. She must navigate the perils of bullets, bombs, and moral dilemmas, all while questioning her resolve to leave home. When she unexpectedly encounters the boy she was meant to meet, her determination wavers. As the story unfolds, Salama starts to perceive the events around her not merely as a war, but as a revolution, prompting her to reconsider her role and decide how she will contribute to Syria’s fight for freedom.
As Long as the Lemon Trees Grow explores themes of courage, loyalty, and the internal struggle of a young woman amidst the chaos of conflict. Salama’s journey forces her to confront her fears, grapple with her convictions, and ultimately discover her own voice in the fight for justice.
4. Stalking Jack the Ripper By Kerri Maniscalco’s
In Kerri Maniscalco’s “Stalking Jack the Ripper,” readers are introduced to Audrey Rose Wadsworth, a seventeen-year-old girl born into a life of wealth and privilege. However, behind the facade of social teas and elegant dresses, Audrey Rose harbors a forbidden secret. Against her father’s strict rules and the pressures of society, she secretly indulges in studying the macabre field of forensic medicine in her uncle’s laboratory.
Audrey’s fascination with forensic medicine takes a thrilling turn when a series of brutal murders, attributed to the infamous Jack the Ripper, grips the city. Drawn by her insatiable curiosity, Audrey becomes involved in the investigation, determined to uncover the truth. As she delves deeper into the dark and dangerous world of a serial killer, her relentless pursuit of answers brings her perilously close to her own sheltered existence.
Set against the backdrop of Victorian London, “Stalking Jack the Ripper” combines elements of historical fiction, fantasy, and mystery to create an enthralling tale. Audrey Rose’s determination to challenge societal norms and pursue her passions while confronting the terrifying presence of a notorious murderer forms the backbone of this gripping young adult novel. Maniscalco’s vivid storytelling and atmospheric descriptions immerse readers in a world of intrigue, danger, and a young woman’s fight for independence and justice.
5. Divine Rivals by Rebecca Ross
In “Divine Rivals” by Rebecca Ross, the gods have awakened from centuries of slumber and plunged into war once again. Amidst this chaos, Iris Winnow, an eighteen-year-old aspiring journalist, yearns to keep her family together amidst personal struggles. Her mother’s addiction consumes her, while her brother remains missing on the front lines.
Determined to secure the coveted columnist promotion at the Oath Gazette, Iris finds solace in writing heartfelt letters to her absent brother. To her surprise, these letters vanish through her wardrobe, only to reappear in the possession of Roman Kitt, a rival journalist who exudes an icy and captivating aura.
Intrigued by Iris’s heartfelt words, Roman responds anonymously, setting off a correspondence that develops into a deep and magical connection. As Iris navigates the perilous journey to find her brother and unravels the mysteries surrounding the gods’ war, she realizes that her connection with Roman holds the key to her destiny. Together, they must confront the horrors of the battlefield and the wrath of the gods to ensure the future of humanity and the preservation of their newfound love.
“Divine Rivals” combines elements of historical fantasy, forbidden romance, and a high-stakes battle between deities, delivering a captivating tale of love, sacrifice, and the power of human connection in the face of divine turmoil.
6. Mirror Girls By: Kelly McWilliams
In Mirror Girls by Kelly McWilliams, the lives of twin sisters Charlie Yates and Magnolia Heathwood take separate paths after their parents are lynched for crossing racial boundaries. Charlie becomes a Black organizer in Harlem during the Civil Rights Movement, while Magnolia, unaware of her true racial heritage, inherits a cotton plantation in Georgia.
Magnolia’s idyllic existence is shattered when she learns the truth about her family’s past. Mysteriously, her reflection vanishes from mirrors, a sign of a curse that plagues her. Meanwhile, Charlie’s grandmother falls ill, and her dying wish is for Charlie to bring Magnolia, her long-lost granddaughter, back to Georgia. Unaware of the curse, Charlie embarks on a journey into the Deep South, a land haunted by the ghosts of its slave-holding history and plagued by Jim Crow segregation.
The sisters reunite in the haunted town of Eureka, Georgia, where ghosts from centuries past linger and dangers lurk behind every mirror. Despite their stark differences, the sisters must rely on each other to confront the haunting shadows of the past, break the curse that binds them, and uncover the true essence of sisterhood in a land divided by race.
Mirror Girls is a captivating YA historical fantasy novel that explores themes of racial identity, the legacy of slavery, and the enduring power of sisterly bonds.
7. Immortality: A Love Story By:Dana Schwartz
In “Immortality: A Love Story” by Dana Schwartz, the protagonist Hazel Sinnett finds herself isolated and questioning the reality of her past experiences involving immortality and the mysterious vial she encountered. With uncertainty surrounding the fate of her love interest, Jack, Hazel focuses on her duties as a physician and caretaker of Hawthornden Castle, which is slowly deteriorating.
However, Hazel’s life takes an unexpected turn when she is arrested after saving a life. Just when it seems like she will be imprisoned indefinitely, a message arrives, offering her a unique opportunity. Princess Charlotte, the ailing granddaughter of King George III, specifically requests Hazel as her personal physician. Reluctantly drawn into the world of courtly glamour and concealed secrets, Hazel discovers a clandestine group called the Companions to the Death, comprising enigmatic and brilliant individuals.
As Hazel becomes more entangled with the intrigues of the British court, she realizes that the future of her career as a surgeon is not the only thing in jeopardy. Sinister forces are at play within the monarchy, and Hazel may hold the key to setting things right. In this thrilling tale of romance and treachery, Hazel’s journey intertwines with the fate of the kingdom itself, and she must navigate a web of deceit to protect what she holds dear.
8. The Gilded Wolves by Roshani Chokshi
In Roshani Chokshi’s “The Gilded Wolves,” set in 1889, the city of Paris is undergoing a transformative period of industrialization and power. The Exposition Universelle has revitalized the streets while unearthing ancient secrets. Séverin Montagnet-Alarie, a treasure-hunter and wealthy hotelier, is skilled at uncovering dark truths in this changing landscape. However, when the influential Order of Babel coerces him into assisting them on a mission, Séverin discovers a treasure he never anticipated: his true inheritance.
To locate the ancient artifact that the Order seeks, Séverin assembles an unconventional group of experts. Among them is an engineer burdened by debt, a historian exiled from his homeland, a dancer with a mysterious past, and a loyal comrade. Together, they embark on a journey to explore the enigmatic heart of Paris, a realm filled with both darkness and opulence. What awaits them there has the potential to reshape history itself, but their survival hangs in the balance.
“The Gilded Wolves” intertwines elements of historical fiction, fantasy, and adventure, capturing the essence of a society on the brink of change. Chokshi’s vivid storytelling paints a picture of a Paris brimming with secrets, where a group of unlikely heroes must navigate treacherous paths to fulfill their mission and discover their own destinies.
9. Foul Lady Fortune By: Chloe Gong
“Foul Lady Fortune” by Chloe Gong takes readers back to 1931 Shanghai, where Rosalind Lang, a young woman with extraordinary abilities, navigates a world filled with intrigue and danger. Having been saved from death through a mysterious experiment, Rosalind is now unable to age, sleep, or die, making her a formidable assassin for her country, operating under the codename Fortune.
However, as the Japanese Imperial Army threatens Shanghai, Rosalind’s mission takes a new turn. A string of murders rocks the city, with suspicions falling on the Japanese. Rosalind is tasked with infiltrating foreign society to uncover the truth behind the terror plot and protect her people.
To maintain her cover, Rosalind must pose as the wife of Orion Hong, a Nationalist spy. Despite their clashing personalities, Rosalind and Orion must work together. But as they delve deeper into the conspiracy, they discover that there are darker secrets and horrors lurking beneath the surface.
“Foul Lady Fortune” blends historical elements with fantasy and mystery, offering readers a captivating tale of espionage, betrayal, and the search for redemption. As Rosalind and Orion uncover the layers of deception, they are confronted with the true extent of the danger they face,
10. Sky in the Deep By: Adrienne Young
In Sky in the Deep by Adrienne Young, seventeen-year-old Eelyn is a fierce warrior belonging to the Aska clan. Her life revolves around the ancient rivalry between her clan and the Riki clan, where she fights alongside her fellow Aska clansmen. Her existence is defined by brutality and survival until the unimaginable happens on the battlefield—she spots her long-lost brother fighting for the enemy, the same brother she witnessed die five years ago.
Betrayed by her brother, Eelyn finds herself stranded in the treacherous mountains with the Riki during the harsh winter. In this foreign Riki village, every resident is a potential adversary, and each battle scar may have been inflicted by her own hand. When the village is raided by a merciless clan believed to be only a legend, Eelyn becomes even more determined to return to her cherished family.
To achieve this, she must reluctantly place her trust in Fiske, her brother’s friend, who views her as a threat. Their only hope lies in the seemingly impossible task of uniting the warring clans against their common enemy, or risk facing annihilation one by one. Fueled by her unwavering love for her clan and an unexpected blossoming affection for Fiske, Eelyn must confront her preconceived notions of loyalty and family while daring to have faith in the very people she has spent her life despising.
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