The best books for the young adult exploring magical worlds

The Books I Picked & Why

Six of Crows

By Leigh Bardugo

Book cover of Six of Crows

Why this book?

Set in the pre-established Grishaverse, Six of Crows dives you right into the heart of a uniquely developed magic system. It’s such an immersive read. I love the way Bardugo captures the story of six flawed characters as they set off on an unpredictable adventure. It’s the contrast of magic users and non-magic users that makes the narrative pop. We normally see magic-wielding as a boon, but Six of Crows offers a fresh perspective as the story’s point-of-view changes at a chapter-by-chapter pace. And it’s just so original, especially the theme, which gives the magic so much structure!

The Grisha and their practice of the Small Science is far different from normal magic systems, but it’s easy to follow along and feel as if you’re one of them.

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Throne of Glass

By Sarah J. Maas

Book cover of Throne of Glass

Why this book?

To stick with the theme of well craft magic systems, Throne of Glass does a miraculous job at giving its readers small samples of mysticism to hook them in and then unleashing it all at once in one immersive tale. This novel is the first of many in the series and kickstarts the exponential growth of a magical realm. These ancient practices were once ubiquitous on the continent of Erilea where the main plot takes place, but in recent years a tyrannical king has somehow found a way to silence all magic in the land.

Sarah J. Maas’ masterful storytelling leaves us readers relatably wanting what the characters want, wanting something that they’ve longed to have—a world filled with magic.

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The Young Elites

By Marie Lu

Book cover of The Young Elites

Why this book?

Young Elites offers a fresh take on the two-sided nature of wielding magical abilities. In this fantasy novel, some characters who have suffered and survived the wrath of the devastating blood fever develop powerful gifts, but these gifts are not free of charge. I admire Lu’s method of balancing action and consequence as these teenagers adapt to their circumstances. I truly enjoyed seeing a darker side of magic for once and in this world, readers are exposed to societies where magic is not celebrated by the masses. Instead, magic is a symbol of the feared blood fever.

The Young Elites series tells a story of struggle, acceptance, and fighting against ingrained discrimination rooted in unjustified fear.

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By Kristin Cashore

Book cover of Graceling

Why this book?

In a high-fantasy world where magic is redefined as Graces, Katsa is the strong female lead with a more than natural talent to kill. Yet, she is stuck playing a pawn, acting as her uncle’s personal assassinating machine. That is, until she meets another Graced, a prince, who opens her eyes to the truth behind her talents. This novel is so immersive and has a collection of beautifully crafted prose. 

I am so fond of the refreshing uniqueness of the magic system and the individuality that it highlights with each character. And the action sequences? Those are incredibly entertaining and easy to visualize. Overall, this story is not one to turn away. 

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City of Bones: The Mortal Instruments #1

By Cassandra Clare

Book cover of City of Bones: The Mortal Instruments #1

Why this book?

Although this series is more of an urban fantasy telling, City of Bones is the precursor to the exploration of an enormous paranormal and magical society. Interested in the lore and mysteries of creatures from legends? This book has established a parallel shadow world within a typical modern-day community that brings together demons, vampires, werewolves, and children of angels. At first glance, City of Bones may come across as cliche, but Clare has created a compelling and different take on some overused tropes, where creatures of the night war in the streets of New York.

At every flip of the page, there are elements of magic—warlocks conjuring, Nephilim enchanting, vampires feasting—my hunger for the supernatural was satisfied by the end of chapter 2. With a smooth and easy-to-follow narrative, this story is fantastic for magic-craving young adults.

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