The best YA fantasy books about hope in dark places

Who am I?

“Hope in dark places” has been the theme of my life, beginning at age 17 when my parents disowned me for my faith. I’ve walked through the “valley of the shadow of death” twice, battling cancer, and endured many other struggles, which everyone faces at some time in their lives. Reading Dragonsong by Anne McCaffrey as a teen gave me the courage to face the darkness, and so the characters in the stories I write and prefer to read do likewise.

I wrote...

Mercy's Prince (He Who Finds Mercy)

By Katy Huth Jones, Colleen Clarke (illustrator),

Book cover of Mercy's Prince (He Who Finds Mercy)

What is my book about?

Prince Valerian wants to be a scholarly monk—until his older brother dies in battle, leaving him heir to the throne with the terrible gift of Sight in the middle of a war. He meets a pacifist Healer named Mercy who has lost everything—except her faith.

Valerian and Mercy discover they can speak mind-to-mind like the great dragons, but will it help them find the powerful legendary creatures, their only hope of saving the land from invading monsters?

The books I picked & why

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Spice Bringer

By H.L. Burke,

Book cover of Spice Bringer

Why this book?

Only rarely have I read a book that affected me as profoundly as this one. Having survived cancer twice, this story of a young girl living with a terminal disease left me in a puddle of emotions, yet it has so much life and hope. Niya is such a strong heroine, she inspires me to never, ever give up! And Alk the fire salamander is one of the most memorable fantasy characters ever. 

The Nameless Soldier: An Annals of Alasia Novella

By Annie Douglass Lima, Savannah Jezowski (illustrator),

Book cover of The Nameless Soldier: An Annals of Alasia Novella

Why this book?

I fell in love with Tarvic, a young soldier, the only survivor of a battle. I could relate to his anguish and despair, feelings I’ve had through many trials, and his journey to survive is inspiring. I shed tears more than once, and near the end is one of the most beautiful lines of prose that fits the title perfectly. Though it’s listed as #4 in a series, all of which I’ve read and loved, The Nameless Soldier is a stand-alone short novel and can be read out of order.


By Jaye L. Knight,

Book cover of Resistance

Why this book?

I felt instant empathy for the two main characters in this book. The half-human Jace is hated and feared only because he is half ryrik, so I felt great sympathy for him, having been hated by those I loved. It hurts so badly, which made me hurt for Jace. Another character who later befriends Jace lives in a dangerous situation and faces terrible persecution in an especially memorable scene. It made me wonder if I could be as steadfast in her place. Both encourage me to be courageous in difficult situations.

Common: Tales of the Mystics, Book One

By Laurie Lucking,

Book cover of Common: Tales of the Mystics, Book One

Why this book?

When I first started reading this fantasy book club selection, I thought it would be a simple sort-of-like Cinderella tale and didn’t expect to be sucked into Leah’s story. My heart went out to her for all the ways she was unfairly treated and misunderstood, for I have known that pain. She was trying to save the royal family, and the queen exiled her!

The best part about this story is how brave and loyal Leah is, and how she doesn’t complain, even when she has good reason. I remember how difficult it was not to complain when I was a teen, so I especially appreciate the encouragement Leah gives without realizing it.

Heartless Hette

By M.L. Farb,

Book cover of Heartless Hette

Why this book?

I confess, I was a bit nervous when I began this book because the main character was not very sympathetic. But Hette’s situation is so heart-wrenching (literally, because a sorcerer has stolen her heart) I kept reading to see what happened. Her journey to recover her heart is much more than a physical adventure, though I could taste the grit and mud, shivered with cold, and sweated from the unbearable heat she struggled through. It was a joy watching this young queen learn important life lessons in totally unexpected places. I felt as if I was learning and growing along with Hette, making the reading of this book a completely satisfying experience.

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