The best fantasy bildungsroman books

Why am I passionate about this?

I am a multiple award-winning YA author with over a decade of experience in writing for adolescents, teaching creative writing, and writing critically about stories. Fantasy is my first love, and the way in which the young imagination is formed by stories is a particular passion of mine. I am the co-founder and CEO of Owl’s Nest Publishers, an up-and-coming independent publishing house exclusively catering to adolescent readers and the writers who want to publish for them. I have published ten fantasy and science fiction novels with my eleventh book releasing in spring 2022. I hope you enjoy my fantasy Bildungsroman picks! 


I wrote...

The Six

By K. B. Hoyle,

Book cover of The Six

What is my book about?

Darcy Pennington is an insufferably average teenager with no true friends and crushing social anxiety. When her parents drag her to Cedar Cove Family Camp the summer before her eighth-grade year, Darcy finds herself on the outside of an established social circle, as usual. But the camp holds secrets, and when Darcy begins to have strange experiences, she comes to believe she’s either losing her mind or on the brink of something life-changing.

An unwitting tumble through a magical gateway lands her in a new world called Alitheia, and Darcy must convince five other teenagers to not only befriend her but follow her on a journey beyond their world and their wildest dreams to save a world they know nothing about. 

Shepherd is reader supported. When you buy books, we may earn an affiliate commission.

The books I picked & why

Book cover of Taran Wanderer

K. B. Hoyle Why did I love this book?

Taran Wanderer is a story that could never be published today, but it’s the sort of Bildungsroman (coming-of-age) story that every person should read at some point in their lives. The 4th book in the Chronicles of Prydain by Lloyd Alexander, Taran Wanderer is about Taran, an orphaned assistant pig keeper who sets out to learn who he is—and who finds in the end that he is not someone Chosen or Destined, but rather just, he himself. I first read this book as an adult and was blown away by its simple profundity. In a sea of YA magical “Chosen One” narratives, Taran Wanderer is a Bildungsroman that commends the virtues found in the ordinary. 

By Lloyd Alexander,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Taran Wanderer as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 8, 9, 10, and 11.

What is this book about?

Taran the assistant Pig-Keeper has led heroic adventures and is a friend of princes, yet he is still troubled by his lowly status, and determined to discover the secret of his true identity.

He sets out to consult the powerful witches of Morva and the mysterious Mirror of Llunet. On his quest to find the truth, Taran must journey through distant realms and undertake a series of challenging tasks. But his greatest struggle is against his own pride and fears, as he learns where true greatness lies.

Taran Wanderer is the fourth book in Lloyd Alexander's classic fantasy epic The…


Book cover of The Goose Girl

K. B. Hoyle Why did I love this book?

Shannon Hale’s The Goose Girl is a fairytale retelling in which a princess is engaged to marry a prince of a far-off kingdom. On the way there, she’s betrayed by her lady-in-waiting, who takes her place and leaves her to die. The princess makes it to the kingdom and becomes a goose-keeper, only to befriend and fall in love with the prince on her own. This is another Bildungsroman I read for the first time as an adult, and I couldn’t believe more people weren’t talking about it. Hale’s prose is like her storytelling—it flows slow and sweet like honey. True character growth happens over time, and Hale gives her protagonists the time they need to mature and overcome challenges. Two thumbs way up for this sweet, magical, romance! 

By Shannon Hale,

Why should I read it?

7 authors picked The Goose Girl as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 13, 14, 15, and 16.

What is this book about?

In this beloved first book in the Books of Bayern, from New York Times bestselling author Shannon Hale, Princess Ani must become a goose girl before she can become queen.

Anidori-Kiladra Talianna Isilee, Crown Princess of Kildenree, spends the first years of her life listening to her aunt's stories and learning the language of the birds, especially the swans. As she grows up, Ani develops the skills of animal speech, but she never feels quite comfortable speaking with people.

So when Ani's mother sends her away to be married in a foreign land, she finds herself at the mercy of…


Book cover of Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban

K. B. Hoyle Why did I love this book?

I could recommend any of the Harry Potter stories as best fantasy Bildungsroman books, but I decided to go with Prisoner of Azkaban for this list because it has always been my favorite of the series. A good Bildungsroman shows a young person having to make their way in the world, and in Prisoner of Azkaban, that’s exactly what Harry has to do after he loses his temper and accidentally “blows up” his Aunt Marge. He’s thrust out into a dark world of danger, and the plot progression that tracks with his character growth leads to one of the most satisfying joyous turns for him in the entire series at the end of the book. Prisoner of Azkaban is a thoughtful, emotional coming-of-age rollercoaster that I will always love. 

By J.K. Rowling,

Why should I read it?

5 authors picked Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 13, 14, 15, and 16.

What is this book about?

It's time to PASS THE MAGIC ON - with brand new children's editions of the classic and internationally bestselling series The third book in the global phenomenon series that changed the world of books forever When the Knight Bus crashes through the darkness and screeches to a halt in front of him, it's the start of another far from ordinary year at Hogwarts for Harry Potter. Sirius Black, escaped mass-murderer and follower of Lord Voldemort, is on the run - and they say he is coming after Harry. In his first ever Divination class, Professor Trelawney sees an omen of…


Book cover of The Hobbit

K. B. Hoyle Why did I love this book?

I’m cheating a bit here, because I don’t know that The Hobbit strictly counts as Bildungsroman, but I count it as one because it has all the requisite parts and themes. With a main character who is an innocent (to the world beyond the Shire) hobbit, a leave-taking of home and comfort into danger in the wide world, and the maturation and growth of Bilbo Baggins following obstacles to overcome, The Hobbit reads like a coming-of-age. It’s one of my favorite books ever—in fact, I am so attached to it, I read it aloud to my (now) husband when we were dating, and when it came time for him to propose, he bought me a collector’s edition of The Hobbit and wrote his proposal out in the inside cover. 

By J.R.R. Tolkien,

Why should I read it?

45 authors picked The Hobbit as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Special collector's film tie-in hardback of the best-selling classic, featuring the complete story with a sumptuous cover design inspired by THE HOBBIT: AN UNEXPECTED JOURNEY and brand new reproductions of all the drawings and maps by J.R.R. Tolkien.

Bilbo Baggins is a hobbit who enjoys a comfortable, unambitious life, rarely travelling further than the pantry of his hobbit-hole in Bag End.

But his contentment is disturbed when the wizard, Gandalf, and a company of thirteen dwarves arrive on his doorstep one day to whisk him away on an unexpected journey 'there and back again'. They have a plot to raid…


Book cover of The Horse and His Boy

K. B. Hoyle Why did I love this book?

The Horse and His Boy is the story-within-a-story of The Chronicles of Narnia that baffles some readers of the series but is beloved to others. I am one of the latter. I have always, since I was a kid, loved this story of longing, coming-of-age, and enemies to friends to lovers—all couched in a race against time to warn Narnia about a coming invasion! Shasta and Aravis are a perfect quarreling couple as they both leave home and comfort to set out into the wide world, and the profound changes they undergo along the way add just the right depth to the classic tale. From start to finish, this is fantasy Bildungsroman at its finest.

By C. S. Lewis, Pauline Baynes (illustrator),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Horse and His Boy as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 8, 9, 10, and 11.

What is this book about?

A full-colour paperback edition of The Horse and His Boy, book three in the classic fantasy series, The Chronicles of Narnia. This edition is complete with full-colour cover and interior art by the original illustrator, Pauline Baynes.

On a desperate journey, two runaways meet and join forces. Though they are only looking to escape their harsh and narrow lives, they soon find themselves at the centre of a terrible battle. It is a battle that will decide their fate and the fate of Narnia itself.

The Horse and His Boy is the third book in C. S. Lewis's classic fantasy…


You might also like...

Melody and the Pier to Forever: Parts Five and Six

By Shawn Michel De Montaigne,

Book cover of Melody and the Pier to Forever: Parts Five and Six

Shawn Michel De Montaigne

New book alert!

What is my book about?

A young adult and epic fantasy novel that begins an entire series, as yet unfinished, about a young girl named Melody who discovers that the pier she lives near goes on forever—a pier that was destroyed by a hurricane that appeared out of blue skies in mere moments in 1983.

Melody doesn't know it, but a king has been searching for her for more than twenty years—longer than she's been alive. His kingdom is readying for the day when they may return to the world found beyond the end of that very pier, a world cast into darkness by an…

Melody and the Pier to Forever: Parts Five and Six

By Shawn Michel De Montaigne,

What is this book about?

Melody Singleton is a bright 13-year-old girl who loves math, classical music, her mom, her best friend Yaeko, and her dog. To her classmates that makes her a nerd, and they cruelly treat her as such. After being expelled from the advanced algebra class for not paying attention, she meets her new teacher, Mr. Conor, who gives her a very strange homework assignment. You see, she got kicked out because she was distracted by a symbol that the rest of us can't see, a beautiful sigil that, incredibly, Mr. Conor can see too, because it's on the assignment he gave…


5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in wizards, self-acceptance, and human animal relationships?

11,000+ authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about wizards, self-acceptance, and human animal relationships.

Wizards Explore 96 books about wizards
Self-Acceptance Explore 52 books about self-acceptance
Human Animal Relationships Explore 45 books about human animal relationships