The Best Fantasy Books

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After Bree’s mother dies in a tragic accident, Bree goes away on a program for bright high schoolers. On her first night, she witnesses an inexplicable magical attack on campus. When the leader of the group attempts to wipe her memory of the incident, her powers are exposed and an old memory is uncovered, revealing that the Legendborn were at the hospital the night Bree’s mother died, spurring her to uncover what really happened. This book for readers in 9th to 12th grade talks about racism, sexism and misogyny with a bold and likable main character.

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Long ago, humans were hunted by magical elves from another land. A treaty ended the hunt, but it let the elves take human women for their wives. Luella thought she’d escaped this fate — until the Elf King comes in search of her specifically. Luella is going to become the next queen to the Elf King of Midscape, and there she discovers a dying world only she can save. This book is best suited for mature young adult readers.

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The story of the boy who lived is already a beloved one, but a new illustrated series from artist Jim Kay will enrich the wizarding world even for kids who are already Harry Potter fans. Readers have raved about the level of detail in Kay’s illustrations, and with more than 100 of them in each book in the series, there’s a lot of fodder for readers ages 8 and older to let their imaginations run wild.

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The Animorphs books are well-known page-turners. With a secret alien attack underway, the main characters discover they can turn into any animal they touch. What they don’t know is who among them may be an alien in disguise, and even their parents are suspect! There’s tension in every encounter that will keep your kids reading to find out what happens next. As the plot thickens, young readers will watch the Animorphs make hard decisions and summon bravery they didn’t know they had. Talk about character development! This is a great introduction to the science-fiction genre for students in late elementary through middle school.

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Percy Jackson is the son of the Greek god Poseidon and a human mother. Life is already complicated when Percy learns he has the ability to control water. Percy’s friends are children of other gods and are discovering their own powers, too. “The Lightning Thief” is packed with action. As the kids in the book come into their power (both figuratively and literally), your middle-schooler will love following along with the characters as they grow and face new challenges in the world of gods, demi-gods and humans they love.

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The best-selling Lunar Chronicles series has become a young-adult favorite. The first book introduces us to Cinder, a bright young cyborg living in the future where her kind are considered second-class citizens and a plague sent from an enemy colony on the moon is threatening everyone on Earth. A chance meeting with a prince and family tragedy set Cinder on a path to discovering her true identity and taking up a hero’s journey along the way. While this is a loose retelling of the Cinderella story, Cinder’s story is not your average fairy tale.

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Rusty’s routine house-cat world turns upside down after discovering the four gangs of cats in the forest near his home. He eventually gains the trust of a clan that needs his help and joins in a battle that will be passed down through generations. This story about a wild, hidden world right outside one’s front door will have your 8- to 12-year-old looking at animals  — especially your house cat! — in a completely different way.

What Our Expert Says

“Imagination is critical to childhood development, and fantasy helps children explore and cultivate their creativity,” Emily Watts, a licensed teacher and a mother of three, says. “Studies show reading fantasy books helps children learn to handle emotions and build deep empathy for others. I will never forget reading my first fantasy series, ‘The Chronicles of Narnia.’”