The best YA fantasy books with ethereal magic and strong female characters

The Books I Picked & Why

The Girl Who Drank the Moon

By Kelly Barnhill

Book cover of The Girl Who Drank the Moon

Why this book?

I absolutely love this book and the gentle magic in it. The way the author writes is like spun honey and the magic is lively and dreamy. The story is about a girl born with a mark given to the forest to die but was actually rescued by a witch who gave her moonlight to drink. Luna doesn’t know of her magic until she is eleven when her power awakes and the world opens up to her. I felt the magic in this book and identified with seeking a special purpose for your talents. I still feel the magic this book left inside me. 


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The Bear and the Nightingale

By Katherine Arden

Book cover of The Bear and the Nightingale

Why this book?

This book brings to life Russian folklore and the world of magic that many have forgotten. I specifically enjoyed how this book includes you in the magic, as if you had been born knowing the tales and creatures taught about. Our character Vasya has a rebellious nature and fierce wildness in a world of order and strict obedience. It’s liberating to read of her wild heart. 


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The Goose Girl

By Shannon Hale

Book cover of The Goose Girl

Why this book?

This book is based on the Grimm’s fairytale, which is only a few brief paragraphs long, but the author brings such a luscious language of storytelling that fills you with a sweet, gentle magic. Princess Ani was born with a word on her tongue and a gift to speak the language of horses. By the very first sentence of this novel, I was captivated. It’s such a beautiful imagining, I lived in this book for days after I finished it. I love it when books can do that to you. 


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A Darker Shade of Magic

By V.E. Schwab

Book cover of A Darker Shade of Magic

Why this book?

This book is a portal fantasy of different Londons, Red London being a realm of lively magic and Grey London being much like Dicken’s industrial London. Our heroine Delilah Bard, being a thief from Grey London, steals a trinket that transports her to a magical dimension where she feels alive and free. I couldn’t get over the different ways the reader looks at the same world. I found the idea captivating and longed to find magic trapped within things. 


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Stardust

By Neil Gaiman

Book cover of Stardust

Why this book?

The simple idea of a rock wall hedge inspired Gaiman’s idea of a different world existing within our world; one where stars are not rock but living guardians watching over us, such is Yvain, the star broken away from the heavens and who fell to earth. This book captivated my fascination with wondering. I often dream about what kind of magic could be in other places. I find I search for magic everywhere, and this book made me believe there is magic out there waiting to be discovered.  


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