The best children’s fantasy books deeply grounded in our world, but with a twist

Why am I passionate about this?

I received a classical education steeped in myth and folklore, and consequently I’m drawn to those stories that show how magic inhabits the liminal spaces of our world. My favorite books transport me to a different historical place or time, make it feel effortlessly lived in, and then explore what lies beneath the surface. I’ve now written two novels set in our world (900s Scandinavia and 17th century Venice), but with a twist, and I hope to write many more. After all, the wonderful thing about myths is that they contain deeper truths that connect us all. They bring us together, which is its own kind of magic.


I wrote...

The Sinking City

By Christine Cohen,

Book cover of The Sinking City

What is my book about?

Venice is a carnival of opposites, and Liona Carvatti thinks she understands it all: canal and palace, magician and merchant, plague and pantomime. As a patrician’s daughter, Liona enjoys the sparkling life of a noble family—although she would prefer to be tending to her flowers than practicing violin or standing around in a ball gown. But what Liona fails to realize is that Venice is a city of stone in a world of water. And ruling the dark waters are the Seleni—ageless, cold, and calculating. 

When she loses everything she relies on, Liona sets a new course that will shake the foundations of Venice itself. And to succeed, she must assume a new identity as an apprentice to the most notorious magician in all Venice.

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of The Thief

Christine Cohen Why did I love this book?

I still remember the first time I read The Thief. I was twelve or thirteen, and I could tell right away that this would be a lush historical novel set in a Greco-inspired ancient world of megarons and olive groves. The first part had plenty of conversations about the gods, but I didn’t think they would actually show up in the story. 

Until they did. 

The Thief opened up a window of possibilities in my young authorial soul. I realized that my very favorite stories pulled back the rug of this world and let you see the magical foundation underneath. This magic was not sprinkled on top, it was ingrained. It made everything feel at once more real, and more frightening. When gods walk the earth, anything can happen.

By Megan Whalen Turner,

Why should I read it?

5 authors picked The Thief as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 12, 13, 14, and 15.

What is this book about?

Discover the world of the Queen's Thief New York Times-bestselling author Megan Whalen Turner's entrancing and award-winning Queen's Thief novels bring to life the world of the epics and feature one of the most charismatic and incorrigible characters of fiction, Eugenides the thief. Megan Whalen Turner's Queen's Thief novels are rich with political machinations and intrigue, battles lost and won, dangerous journeys, divine intervention, power, passion, revenge, and deception. Perfect for fans of Leigh Bardugo, Marie Lu, Patrick Rothfuss, and George R. R. Martin. Eugenides, the queen's thief, can steal anything-or so he says. When his boasting lands him in…


Book cover of Wildwood Dancing

Christine Cohen Why did I love this book?

This is another childhood story that convinced me to look for the deeper magic beneath the surface, a magic tapped into through myths and legends. The world of Wildwood Dancing is filled with vampires (not the sparkly kind), Iele, and Draguta, the witch of the woods. Based on the fairytale of the twelve dancing princesses, the story is set in the mountains of Transylvania, but with the added twist of a place called the Other Kingdom, where the five sisters go every Full Moon. The descriptions are rich and vivid, and the incorporation of Romanian folklore makes it feel even more authentic. I was inspired to weave mythology and fairytale elements into my books too, because those stories have stood the test of time. They make a fantasy world feel lived in. 

By Juliet Marillier,

Why should I read it?

4 authors picked Wildwood Dancing as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 12, 13, 14, and 15.

What is this book about?

The wildwood holds many mysteries. Jena and her sisters share the biggest of all, a fantastic secret that enables them to escape the confines of their everyday life in rural Transylvania. They have kept it hidden for nine long years.

When their father falls ill and must leave their forest home over the winter, Jena and her older sister Tati are left in charge. All goes well until a tragic accident allows their overbearing cousin Cezar to take control. The appearance of a mysterious young man in a black coat divides sister from sister, and suddenly Jena finds herself fighting…


Book cover of The Scorpio Races

Christine Cohen Why did I love this book?

If you loved reading about the Chincoteague Island Pony Swim in Marguerite Henry’s Misty of Chincoteague, and you like books set on vaguely Irish/British/Scottish islands, then The Scorpio Races is the book for you. Here’s the twist. The ponies that the islanders race in Stiefvater’s book are carnivorous. Yes, you read that right. Based on the Irish mythological capaill uisce, these unpredictable water horses will either help you win the race, or kill you. Stiefvater does such an incredible job of making Thisby Island feel authentic and true that these terrifying creatures felt real, too. In fact, if I’m ever on a ferry to a cold, Northern Island, I will be keeping an eye out for murderous water horses. 

By Maggie Stiefvater,

Why should I read it?

10 authors picked The Scorpio Races 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?

A spellbinding novel from #1 New York Times bestselling author Maggie Stiefvater.

Some race to win. Others race to survive.It happens at the start of every November: the Scorpio Races. Riders attempt to keep hold of their water horses long enough to make it to the finish line. Some riders live. Others die. At age nineteen, Sean Kendrick is the returning champion. He is a young man of few words, and if he has any fears, he keeps them buried deep, where no one else can see them. Puck Connolly is different. She never meant to ride in the Scorpio…


Book cover of The Perilous Gard

Christine Cohen Why did I love this book?

I picked this up as an adult thinking it was straight historical fiction. After all, we meet the imprisoned Princess Elizabeth of England in the first chapter. However, when the main character is relocated to a remote castle and discovers the underground world of the fairy folk, the story takes a delightful turn into the realm of myth and legend. It pays homage to the Scottish myth of Tam Lin, the ballad of Thomas the Rhymer, and several Arthurian legends, while remaining firmly grounded in Elizabethan England. The added twist of the fairy realm was so deftly accomplished that I finished the book thinking that perhaps, if I lived in Elizabethan England, I too might have stumbled upon the land of the Fairy Folk. 

By Elizabeth Marie Pope, Richard Cuffari, Cynthia von Buhler (illustrator)

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Perilous Gard as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In 1558, while exiled by Queen Mary Tudor to a remote castle known as Perilous Gard, young Kate Sutton becomes involved in a series of mysterious events that lead her to an underground world peopled by Fairy Folk—whose customs are even older than the Druids’ and include human sacrifice.


Book cover of Spinning Silver

Christine Cohen Why did I love this book?

Spinning Silver is a loose reimagining of the tale of Rumpelstiltskin and is meant for older readers (Young Adult/Adult). Novik crafts an Old Russian/Slavic-inspired world of Tsars and kopeks and moneylenders. She’s clearly done extensive research on the clothing and food and politics of the time, which makes the setting feel effortlessly real. Then, she adds in a fairy race made of ice known as the Staryk. Also, the fire demon Chernobog (surprise!). The world of Spinning Silver feels so rich and old and familiar that it makes room for the fantastic to enter in without us hardly noticing. It’s written in multiple points of view, each one fully distinct, and the story only gets better with a re-read.  

By Naomi Novik,

Why should I read it?

8 authors picked Spinning Silver as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Following her award-winning novel Uprooted, Naomi Novik has once again been influenced by classic folktales. Taking Rumpelstiltskin as her starting point, Spinning Silver is rich, original and a joy to read.

Will dark magic claim their home?
Miryem is the daughter and granddaughter of moneylenders, but her father's too kind-hearted to collect his debts. They face poverty, until Miryem hardens her own heart and takes up his work in their village. Her success creates rumours she can turn silver into gold, which attract the fairy king of winter himself. He sets her an impossible challenge - and if she fails,…


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Price of Vengeance

By Kurt D. Springs,

Book cover of Price of Vengeance

Kurt D. Springs

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Why am I passionate about this?

Author Teacher Cook Barista Guardian

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What is my book about?

Liam was orphaned at the age of two by a group of giant carnivorous insects called the chitin. Taken in by High Councilor Marcus and his wife, Lidia, Liam was raised with their older son, Randolf in New Olympia, the last remaining city on the planet Etrusci.

As an adult, Liam becomes a soldier. After being cut off from the city, Liam finds that there is an alien intelligence behind the chitin. To defeat it, he must discover who he is and how to use his powers. Then, Liam discovers that a traitor, responsible for his birth parents' deaths, had…

Price of Vengeance

By Kurt D. Springs,

What is this book about?

"From the cover to the opening pages, Price of Vengeance grabs the reader and takes them on a wild ride. Fasten your seat belts for this book." -S. J. Francis, author of Shattered Lies

What is the Price of Vengeance? One could understand why Liam was angry. He was orphaned at the age of two by a group of giant carnivorous insects called the chitin. Taken in by High Councilor Marcus and his wife, Lidia, Liam was raised with their older son, Randolf in New Olympia, the last remaining city on the planet Etrusci.

As an adult, Liam becomes a…


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