Updated: Dec 7, 2021
We've all read The Mortal Instruments, The Hunger Games and Twilight, right? And watched the movies and TV adaptations. We've devoured everything by Sarah J. Maas and Leigh Bardugo. So, what should we read to feed our craving while we wait for our favourite author's next book to come out?
Well, here's a list of seven brilliant YA fantasy, sci-fi and dystopian books that tend to get forgotten. They don't get the same love or adoration as Throne of Glass or Shadow and Bone, despite being just as good - if not better!
Newer isn't always better, so dig a little deeper into the book archives and pull out one of these absolute gems next time you're looking for a book to read between new releases:
Graceling by Kristin Cashore
In a world where people born with an exceptional skill, known as a Grace, are feared and exploited, Katsa carries the burden of a skill even she despises: the Grace of killing.
Graceling is a perfect example of the YA fantasy genre, it should be required reading for all fantasy fans, and especially for writers! It's a masterclass in world building, character creation and storytelling. There are three more companion novels set in the same world with some of the same characters, but none are quite as perfect as Graceling.
Flawed by Cecelia Ahern
Celestine North lives a perfect life. She’s a model daughter and sister, she’s well-liked by her classmates and teachers, and she’s dating the impossibly charming Art Crevan.
But then Celestine encounters a situation in which she makes an instinctive decision. She breaks a rule and now faces life-changing repercussions. She could be imprisoned. She could be branded. She could be found FLAWED.
If you love Cecelia Ahern's writing style in her adult novels, like P.S. I Love You and Where Rainbows End, and you're a fan of YA speculative fiction, then you'll love Flawed. Set in a fictional version of Scotland, in a future where corruption and scandal has been eradicated by a new judicial system that punishes even the slightest indiscretion or imperfection, it's a terrifying and all too believable depiction of a dystopian not-too-distant future. Read it if you like The Handmaid's Tale.
The Queen of the Tearling by Erika Johansen
Kelsea Glynn is the sole heir to the throne of Tearling but has been raised in secret after her mother – a monarch as vain as she was foolish – was murdered for ruining her kingdom.
For eighteen years, the Tearling has been ruled by Kelsea’s uncle - Regent in name, but in truth the debauched puppet of the Red Queen, the sorceress-tyrant of neighbouring realm of Mortmesme. On Kelsea’s nineteenth birthday, the tattered remnants of her mother’s guard - each pledged to defend the queen to the death - arrive to bring this most un-regal young woman out of hiding...
The Queen of the Tearling is a bold combination of medieval-style sword and sorcery fantasy, with tonnes of political intrigue and a dash of romance, and post-apocalyptic dystopian sci-fi with time travel. Sounds insane? It actually really works, so if you love grimdark fantasy with a surprising plot twist or ten then you should definitely give this series a try. It's not for the faint of heart, but it'll be worth it, I promise!
The Kiss of Deception by Mary E. Pearson
In a society steeped in tradition, Princess Lia's life follows a preordained course. As First Daughter, she is expected to have the revered gift of sight - but she doesn't - and she knows her parents are perpetrating a sham when they arrange her marriage to secure an alliance with a neighboring kingdom - to a prince she has never met.
If you're a big fan of love triangles - and even if you're not (like me) - then you'll definitely enjoy The Kiss of Deception, The Remnant Chronicles #1. Mary E. Pearson is an absolute master of deception, you'll be kept guessing which boy Lia will fall for right until the very end of the first book. Because, you won't know which boy is which. Pearson cleverly hides the boys' identities right until the last second, in such a devious and delightful way that you'll almost be mad at yourself for not figuring it out sooner. Give it a read and tell me if you catch on before the big reveal, because I certainly didn't!
Delirium by Lauren Oliver
They say that the cure for love will make me happy and safe forever. And I've always believed them. Until now.
There was a time when love was the most important thing in the world. People would go to the end of the earth to find it. They would tell lies for it. Even kill for it.
But now love has been declared a dangerous disease.
You might have seen the Amazon Prime series based on Lauren Oliver's novel Panic, or the movie Before I Fall with Zoe Deutch. If you enjoyed those, you'll almost certainly love her YA dystopian take on Romeo and Juliet, Delirium. Set in a not-so-distant future where love has been banned and everyone gets lobotomised at eighteen to remove the possibility of falling in love, Lena is destined to marry a nice boy, chosen for her by the government based on a series of tests to find her perfect, safe match. Until Lena meets a boy from the Wilds - a place outside of the city walls where love rules.
The Scorpio Races by Maggie Steifvater
“It is the first day of November and so, today, someone will die.”
Stay alive, stay astride, stay out of the water...
Every November, the Scorpio Races are run beneath the chalk cliffs of Skarmouth. Thousands gather to watch the horses and the sea that washes the blood from the sand. The mounts are capaill uisce: savage water horses.
The only standalone novel on this list, The Scorpio Races is that perfect blend of teen and adult that means it can be read and enjoyed by absolutely everyone. It's a stunning piece of craft as well as a captivating story of first love and family secrets. Set on a remote island (that I always imagine is the Isle of Wight, UK), it follows Sean, a trained water horse racer, and Puck, a wild-spirited girl who enters the race to win the money to save her family's farm. It features Stiefvater's classic style of magic and mysticism, while at its heart being a universal tale of small town folk and the youthful search for freedom, excitement and love. Read it if you're a huge The Raven Cycle fan, or if you fancy a standalone palate cleanser between heavier, high fantasy series.
The Sin Eater's Daughter by Melinda Salisbury
Twylla has a gift - or a curse. She can kill with a single touch. Now she's the court executioner, compelled to do the queen's bidding - and marry the prince. But when she meets a rebellious guard, Twylla starts to question everything she's been told...
The Sin Eater's Daughter was Salisbury's debut novel, and it's a gorgeous high fantasy filled with unique magic, fairy tales and folklore (it combines retellings of the Pied Piper of Hamlin and Sleeping Beauty, but with a completely fresh twist on each). The world-building is incredible, and the characters grow in such an organic way through the series that the twist ending should be expected, but it's written so well that you're still surprised. With two brave and intelligent female protagonists (book two changes POV, but don't worry, you'll love both and it really helps to round out the world Salisbury has created), a swoony love interest, two of the most terrifying villains I've ever come across, and a richly-crafted world filled with myths and magic, it's one of my favourite ever series. In fact, I feel a reread coming on...
This article was written by Lyndsey Hall.
Lyndsey Hall is a UK-based YA fantasy writer and reader, and author of The Fair Chronicles. She writes novels and short stories filled with magic, heart-stopping action and swoon-worthy romance. Pick a cover to find out more.