I’m a big reader. Big. Huge. Ginormous. So much so, that I’m aiming to read 100 books this year. So far I’m only up to Book #75, because I slacked off in the month of September and now I only have a month and a half left to read 25 books. Yikes!
I read both fiction, and non-fiction – sometimes even textbooks. Earlier this year I read a textbook about winemaking in Australasian regions. Yes, I almost fell asleep a few times, but I also know a lot more about wine than I ever did before – which is extremely helpful because now I don’t get judged for the amount of wine I drink… I can just say I’m a wine connoisseur, and hopefully people will take me seriously! “This wine has hints of old leather, spicy Malaysian food, and highlighter ink…” Yeah right.
Out of all of the genres I’ve read over the years, my favourite by far is fantasy – young/new adult fantasy in particular. I’m not sure whether I like the kickass female protagonists, their wide and long character arc about their coming of age, or coming into their own destiny; or whether it’s about the love interest that triggers my teenage sentiment of having a huge crush for the first time. Maybe it’s all of the above.
By some it’s seen a little strange that I still enjoy and pore over YA fiction when I’m well into my late twenties, but the fact is, the deeper I get into my twenties, the more I think: who the fuck cares? YA fantasy fiction brings me joy, and that’s why I love it. Full stop. Anyone who thinks differently can fuck right off, because I’m busy reading, and I don’t want to be disturbed – the main character is fighting for her life right now, and this fictional character’s mortality is more important than your shitty opinion.
It also makes the world around me more exciting, and in a weird way creates a character to look up to – one who’s more confident, braver, and more kickass than me, but a character’s whose shoes I can wear for a while when I need to get out of my life and try something new.
I thought why, as the sun sets earlier and earlier, would we not want to escape into a world where your childhood fairy tales come to life, and you be the hero? Where you deal with struggles different from your own, but are still filled with hopes and dreams and triumphs?
My favourite author of fantasy fiction, Sarah J. Maas, is in here three times, with her three different series – and for good reason. I read ‘A Court of Thorns and Roses’ first, and fell in love with her characters. Her series ‘Throne of Glass’ spans 9 books, each one of them amazing, and ends with an absolutely extraordinary finale that makes me sob every single time! I love these books so much, I usually read them all every one to two years – and they inspire me (and make my cry) every time, like it’s the very first time. I am hardly ever a re-reader, preferring to discover new stories, so the fact that I re-read 16 novels from this author every year should be a big, flashing sign telling you that you should READ THESE BOOKS.
I also had to include everybody’s old favourites in here, like ‘Twilight’, ‘Divergent’, ‘The Hunger Games’, because even though they’ve been made into movies (Where the hell have you been, loca?), the movies are mostly atrocious and the books are better, although I do have to say the ‘Twilight’ series is problematic in the light of being a real-life grown-up. (I’m Team Edward, but he is a stalker, and crazy, so there’s that. Ladies, don’t get yourself a man like Edward Cullen – but I do give you permission to fantasize about him in the book…)
I’ve included one of my favourite books of all time in here (apart from ACOTAR): ‘The Book Thief’ by Marcus Zusak – and if you decide to read any of the books on this list, I recommend this one be the first. A book that has stayed with me throughout my life since I first read it when I was 12, perhaps it’s not fantasy as such, but it’s a novel narrated by Death in the time of the Holocaust, and somehow is still a book filled with compassion and hope – and a love of reading, which of course I can relate to.
Without further ado, my favourite fantasy novels below – I hope you enjoy them as much as I do.
Image via @grimes
A Court Of Thorns And Roses – Sarah J Maas
Feyre's survival rests upon her ability to hunt and kill – the forest where she lives is a cold, bleak place in the long winter months. So when she spots a deer in the forest being pursued by a wolf, she cannot resist fighting it for the flesh. But to do so, she must kill the predator and killing something so precious comes at a price ...
Dragged to a magical kingdom for the murder of a faerie, Feyre discovers that her captor, his face obscured by a jewelled mask, is hiding far more than his piercing green eyes would suggest. Feyre's presence at the court is closely guarded, and as she begins to learn why, her feelings for him turn from hostility to passion and the faerie lands become an even more dangerous place. Feyre must fight to break an ancient curse, or she will lose him forever.
Northern Lights/The Golden Compass – Philip Pullman
It begins with a girl and her daemon.
The girl is Lyra Belacqua, an orphan who lives in a place like, and yet unlike, Oxford in a parallel universe in which science, theology and magic are entwined. Yet for Lyra, her world is about climbing the rooftops of the Oxford colleges with her friend Roger, enthralling the neighbourhood children with her tales and keeping out of the way of the scholars of Jordan College.
Then children start to go missing, snatched mysteriously by a group the children call ‘The Gobblers’. When Roger is taken, Lyra founds herself bound up in a dangerous chase, a daring game of cat-and-mouse that sees her on the run from the highest authorities.
It is a hunt that will take her far from Oxford, to high-society London and the home of the mysterious and beautiful Mrs Coulter and beyond, to the home of the witches and the kingdom of the ice bears where the aurora awaits.
Here Lyra’s quest for answers becomes a mission to understand a mysterious phenomenon called Dust and there are secrets too, about her own family, about a prophecy, about betrayal and about the universe; secrets that come at a deadly cost.
Children Of Blood And Bone – Tomi Adeyemi
They killed my mother.
They took our magic.
They tried to bury us.
Now we rise.
Zélie Adebola remembers when the soil of Orïsha hummed with magic. Burners ignited flames, Tiders beckoned waves, and Zélie’s Reaper mother summoned forth souls.
But everything changed the night magic disappeared. Under the orders of a ruthless king, maji were killed, leaving Zélie without a mother and her people without hope.
Now Zélie has one chance to bring back magic and strike against the monarchy. With the help of a rogue princess, Zélie must outwit and outrun the crown prince, who is hell-bent on eradicating magic for good.
Danger lurks in Orïsha, where snow leoponaires prowl and vengeful spirits wait in the waters. Yet the greatest danger may be Zélie herself as she struggles to control her powers and her growing feelings for an enemy.
Throne of Glass – Sarah J Maas
After serving out a year of hard labor in the salt mines of Endovier for her crimes, 18-year-old assassin Celaena Sardothien is dragged before the Crown Prince. Prince Dorian offers her her freedom on one condition: she must act as his champion in a competition to find a new royal assassin.
Her opponents are men-thieves and assassins and warriors from across the empire, each sponsored by a member of the king's council. If she beats her opponents in a series of eliminations, she'll serve the kingdom for four years and then be granted her freedom. Celaena finds her training sessions with the captain of the guard, Westfall, challenging and exhilarating. But she's bored stiff by court life. Things get a little more interesting when the prince starts to show interest in her ... but it's the gruff Captain Westfall who seems to understand her best.
Then one of the other contestants turns up dead ... quickly followed by another. Can Celaena figure out who the killer is before she becomes a victim? As the young assassin investigates, her search leads her to discover a greater destiny than she could possibly have imagined.
Divergent – Veronica Roth
In Beatrice Prior's dystopian Chicago world, society is divided into five factions, each dedicated to the cultivation of a particular virtue—Candor (the honest), Abnegation (the selfless), Dauntless (the brave), Amity (the peaceful), and Erudite (the intelligent). On an appointed day of every year, all sixteen-year-olds must select the faction to which they will devote the rest of their lives. For Beatrice, the decision is between staying with her family and being who she really is—she can't have both. So she makes a choice that surprises everyone, including herself.
During the highly competitive initiation that follows, Beatrice renames herself Tris and struggles alongside her fellow initiates to live out the choice they have made. Together they must undergo extreme physical tests of endurance and intense psychological simulations, some with devastating consequences. As initiation transforms them all, Tris must determine who her friends really are—and where, exactly, a romance with a sometimes fascinating, sometimes exasperating boy fits into the life she's chosen. But Tris also has a secret, one she's kept hidden from everyone because she's been warned it can mean death. And as she discovers unrest and growing conflict that threaten to unravel her seemingly perfect society, she also learns that her secret might help her save those she loves . . . or it might destroy her.
Noughts & Crosses – Malorie Blackman
Two young people are forced to make a stand in this thought-provoking look at racism and prejudice in an alternate society.
Sephy is a Cross -- a member of the dark-skinned ruling class. Callum is a Nought -- a “colourless” member of the underclass who were once slaves to the Crosses. The two have been friends since early childhood, but that’s as far as it can go. In their world, Noughts and Crosses simply don’t mix. Against a background of prejudice and distrust, intensely highlighted by violent terrorist activity, a romance builds between Sephy and Callum -- a romance that is to lead both of them into terrible danger. Can they possibly find a way to be together?
Book of Dust: La Belle Sauvage – Philip Pullman
Malcolm was the landlord’s son, an only child…he had friends enough, but he was happiest on his own playing with his daemon Asta in their canoe, which was called La Belle Sauvage.
Malcolm Polstead’s life in the pub beside the Thames is sage and happy enough, if uneventful. But during a winter on unceasing rain the forces of science, religion and politics begin to clash, and as the weather rises to a pitch of ferocity, all of Malcolm’s certainties are torn asunder.
Finding himself linked to a baby by the name of Lyra, Malcolm is forced to undertake the challenge of his life and to make a dangerous journey that will change him and Lyra forever…
Strange The Dreamer – Laini Taylor
The dream chooses the dreamer, not the other way around—and Lazlo Strange, war orphan and junior librarian, has always feared that his dream chose poorly. Since he was five years old he’s been obsessed with the mythic lost city of Weep, but it would take someone bolder than he to cross half the world in search of it. Then a stunning opportunity presents itself, in the person of a hero called the Godslayer and a band of legendary warriors, and he has to seize his chance or lose his dream forever.
What happened in Weep two hundred years ago to cut it off from the rest of the world? What exactly did the Godslayer slay that went by the name of god? And what is the mysterious problem he now seeks help in solving?
The answers await in Weep, but so do more mysteries—including the blue-skinned goddess who appears in Lazlo’s dreams. How did he dream her before he knew she existed? And if all the gods are dead, why does she seem so real?
The Book Thief – Marcus Zusak
It is 1939. Nazi Germany. The country is holding its breath. Death has never been busier, and will be busier still.
By her brother's graveside, Liesel's life is changed when she picks up a single object, partially hidden in the snow. It is The Gravedigger's Handbook, left behind there by accident, and it is her first act of book thievery. So begins a love affair with books and words, as Liesel, with the help of her accordian-playing foster father, learns to read. Soon she is stealing books from Nazi book-burnings, the mayor's wife's library, wherever there are books to be found.
But these are dangerous times. When Liesel's foster family hides a Jew in their basement, Liesel's world is both opened up, and closed down.
In superbly crafted writing that burns with intensity, award-winning author Markus Zusak has given us one of the most enduring stories of our time.
The Hunger Games – Suzanne Collins
Could you survive on your own in the wild, with every one out to make sure you don't live to see the morning?
In the ruins of a place once known as North America lies the nation of Panem, a shining Capitol surrounded by twelve outlying districts. The Capitol is harsh and cruel and keeps the districts in line by forcing them all to send one boy and one girl between the ages of twelve and eighteen to participate in the annual Hunger Games, a fight to the death on live TV.
Sixteen-year-old Katniss Everdeen, who lives alone with her mother and younger sister, regards it as a death sentence when she steps forward to take her sister's place in the Games. But Katniss has been close to dead before—and survival, for her, is second nature. Without really meaning to, she becomes a contender. But if she is to win, she will have to start making choices that weight survival against humanity and life against love.
The Mortal Instruments: City Of Bones – Cassandra Clare
When fifteen-year-old Clary Fray heads out to the Pandemonium Club in New York City, she hardly expects to witness a murder― much less a murder committed by three teenagers covered with strange tattoos and brandishing bizarre weapons. Then the body disappears into thin air. It's hard to call the police when the murderers are invisible to everyone else and when there is nothing―not even a smear of blood―to show that a boy has died. Or was he a boy?
This is Clary's first meeting with the Shadowhunters, warriors dedicated to ridding the earth of demons. It's also her first encounter with Jace, a Shadowhunter who looks a little like an angel and acts a lot like a jerk. Within twenty-four hours Clary is pulled into Jace's world with a vengeance when her mother disappears and Clary herself is attacked by a demon. But why would demons be interested in ordinary mundanes like Clary and her mother? And how did Clary suddenly get the Sight? The Shadowhunters would like to know...
Twilight – Stephanie Meyer
About three things I was absolutely positive.
First, Edward was a vampire.
Second, there was a part of him—and I didn't know how dominant that part might be—that thirsted for my blood.
And third, I was unconditionally and irrevocably in love with him.
Crescent City: House of Earth and Blood – Sarah J. Maas
Bound by blood.
Tempted by desire.
Unleashed by destiny.
Bryce Quinlan had the perfect life—working hard all day and partying all night—until a demon murdered her closest friends, leaving her bereft, wounded, and alone. When the accused is behind bars but the crimes start up again, Bryce finds herself at the heart of the investigation. She’ll do whatever it takes to avenge their deaths.
Hunt Athalar is a notorious Fallen angel, now enslaved to the Archangels he once attempted to overthrow. His brutal skills and incredible strength have been set to one purpose—to assassinate his boss’s enemies, no questions asked. But with a demon wreaking havoc in the city, he’s offered an irresistible deal: help Bryce find the murderer, and his freedom will be within reach.
As Bryce and Hunt dig deep into Crescent City’s underbelly, they discover a dark power that threatens everything and everyone they hold dear, and they find, in each other, a blazing passion—one that could set them both free, if they’d only let it.
With unforgettable characters, sizzling romance, and page-turning suspense, this richly inventive new fantasy series by #1 New York Times bestselling author Sarah J. Maas delves into the heartache of loss, the price of freedom—and the power of love.