RRight now we’re all about YA Fantasy here at Burning Chair Towers, and for good reason: we’re counting down the days until our very own Fi Phillips’ debut novel, Haven Wakes, is released.
Haven Wakes is an exciting new adventure set in the year 2110 in a world where everyone has their own robot, but where—unbeknownst to most people—magical worlds lie just beyond the next door. We follow the adventures of a teenage boy, Steve Haven, who finds himself sucked into the magical world of Darkacre, where he must team up with a strange group of mysticals to save himself, his family, and the whole world.
But all of this excitement has started another mini-debate here in our offices; this time about which are the best YA Fantasy novels of all time. After lots of animated discussion, veiled passive-aggressive threats [(cough) Pete] and endless philosophising about sub-text [(cough) Simon], we came to the conclusion that there are far too many outstanding stories to narrow them down to one favourite.
So we decided to instead settle on our top six. So here it is, in no particular order, the Burning Chair Top Six YA Fantasy Novels…
We start with a proper, old-school classic. You’ll either love or hate the film adaptation starring Martin Freeman, but the book is a much more accessible romp into the world of Middle Earth than the weightier and more famous Lord of the Rings trilogy.
Of course, when we say “accessible” there, we’re neatly glossing over the reams of Hobbit poetry in the book. We love Tolkein, but there are limits…
As an introduction for any age to the worlds of epic fantasy, you can’t do much better than this book, with its lovable protagonist, Bilbo Baggins. Not to mention the layers-upon-layers of mystical, mysterious elements, which were pretty revolutionary for their time.
A particular favourite of Simon, who consumes each of them in a weekend, Skullduggery Pleasant features hands-down the best wise-cracking skeleton detective of all time, as well as a strong teenage female hero. We really cannot praise this enough: the whole series is simply ingenious, with brilliant dialogue and humour which will appeal to all ages. As a result this book (and the rest of the series) is a firm favourite and we think should be on the curriculum of every school.
If you have a family of tweens and teens—or even if you just fancy a razor-sharp ride through an adventure which will grip and amuse you in equal measure—you’ll be hard-pressed to beat Derek Landy’s Skullduggery series.
Talking of ingenious book ideas, how’s about this one as a stealthy but fun way to introduce your children to the Classics?
What makes this even more awesome—on top of the healthy dollops of Greek Gods, Heroes and other myths—is the fact that Percy is openly dyslexic and the book deals with this in such a beautiful way, using it to explain how his mind is more attuned to Ancient Greek. The way Rick Riordan intertwines modern life with ancient mythology is nothing short of genius.
There’s plenty of humour and action to keep all ages engaged, as well as some timeless heroes and villains to keep you turning those pages; so do yourself a favour, swerve the film versions and grab the book!
Again, one of the many, many cases where the books are far better than the films (and yes, that’s even in spite of Jennifer Lawrence’s awesome starring role – so shoot us…!).
The concept is a really strong one, with a dystopian future and underlying socio-political commentary. But what will really captivate most readers is the strong female lead and the pace, with some superb action and battle sequences throughout.
This one is definitely darker than some of our other picks, but there’s so much in there to keep you gripped and steaming through to the epic conclusion.
The original and, arguably, the best: the epic story and series which broke the ground for all those which came afterwards and captivated readers of all ages, introducing them to a world of witchcraft and wizardry which continues to entrance millions to this day.
Harry Potter beautifully interlaces latin, classics, history, British boarding schools into quirky and amusing magical elements. In fact, it’s really so famous that there’s very little we can say here that hasn’t been said a million times before (although don’t get us started on the Horcruxes…!). So if you haven’t already, we’d certainly recommend this!
This story is very dark and is heavily, but beautifully, laden with some pretty deep topics such as religion, philosophy and morality (the Original Sin, anyone?). But at its heart this is a truly gorgeous book, with beautiful settings—from an alternate, almost steampunk, Oxford to the frozen wastes of Svalbard.
In Lyra Belacqua, we have another strong female lead character and there are plenty of interesting, quirky, threatening, magical, mystical characters throughout to grip any reader.
There are so many captivating ideas throughout the book that you can’t help but be bewitched by it, in spite of the quite intense story ideas. And we challenge anyone to not read it and immediately spend hours debating what shape their own Daemon would take…
So there you have it: the result of much agonised discussion. But we got there in the end. And now we’d love to hear from you: do you agree? Are there any of your favourites we’ve missed out?
Until next time, as always: stay lucky.
Pete and Simon
Full disclosure: the above links are affiliate links, which means that, if you use them to go to Amazon and buy, then we get a nice little kick-back from the big, bad ‘zon. That in turn gives us a bit of cash to spend on putting more of our lovely books out into the world or, I dunno, maybe feed our starving children. If that sort of blatant capitalism isn’t your bag, then you can, of course, choose to ignore the links and go direct to the relevant stores yourself. We won’t blame you, although our bank manager might have something to say about it…!