The best YA books with magical animals

The Books I Picked & Why

The Endless Skies

By Shannon Price

The Endless Skies

Why this book?

Winged! Lion! Shifters! What more could you want? Maybe a simmering romance? A warrior society reminiscent of Sparta? A floating kingdom? This book has all that and more. Set against the backdrop of a harrowing race against time, this book is perfect for fans of Sky In The Deep by Adrienne Young and Wonder Woman, with core themes of friendship, family, and loyalty.

This book is all the magic, action, and romance you could want from a YA fantasy.


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Elatsoe

By Darcie Little Badger, Rovina Cai

Elatsoe

Why this book?

Set in an alternate America shaped by magic, this book follows Elatsoe, a teenage girl with the ability to summon animal spirits, a power passed down through her Lipan Apache family. When her cousin is murdered and his death passed off as an accident, she opens her own investigation, and will stop at nothing to get the truth.

It’s an absolutely beautiful book with a focus on the power of storytelling, complete with a ghost dog sidekick you’re sure to love.


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Crown of Feathers

By Nicki Pau Preto

Crown of Feathers

Why this book?

If you’re a fan of dragon-riding stories, you’ll love this one. Except instead of dragons, we have massive fiery phoenixes that bond with their riders. This story follows the return of the last phoenix riders as they’re caught up in an ancient war with a legendary queen, complete with twisty court politics, hidden agendas, and a story that echoes across generations.

Obviously, I’m a huge fan of giant magical birds, and this book delves deep into the bond between human and animal.


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The Beast Player

By Nahoko Uehashi, Cathy Hirano

The Beast Player

Why this book?

Have you ever wished you could talk to animals? In this story, Elin has the rare ability to communicate with the dangerous royal beasts that guard her queen, a power that captures the equally dangerous royals’ attention. Elin must navigate the treacherous waters between those who would use her abilities for war, and the beasts she’s grown to care for, if she and her beloved beasts are to survive.

This book draws heavily on ecology in a way that had my biologist brain buzzing with interest, and made for a unique take on the fantastical animal bond trope.


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Tess of the Road

By Rachel Hartman

Tess of the Road

Why this book?

There are a lot of fantastic iterations of dragon books out there, and this is one of the best. Dragons in this story have the ability to shapeshift into humans—not the other way around—and do so with great disgruntlement. But our story focuses on a distinctly human girl, Tess, whose troublemaking nature has alienated her from family and friends alike. When her family attempts to force her into a life she doesn’t want, Tess sets out on the adventure of a lifetime with her dragon friend to rediscover herself, and maybe find a little magic along the way.

This book is a healing journey in the guise of a fantastical adventure that will leave you feeling lighter for the trip.


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