The best YA fantasy books full of dark secrets and epic adventures

Katie L. Carroll Author Of Elixir Bound
By Katie L. Carroll

Who am I?

I started reading young adult fantasy by the likes of Tamora Pierce and Garth Nix in my teens and was instantly hooked. I stuck with it into my adult years because YA fantasy has always been full of rich worlds, complex characters, and fast-paced plots. My younger sister also loved these stories, so when she passed away at a tragically young age, it spurred me on to write my own YA fantasy in memory of her. This list includes some of my favorites—ones I know she would have loved as well.


I wrote...

Elixir Bound

By Katie L. Carroll,

Book cover of Elixir Bound

What is my book about?

Set off on an epic adventure in this award-winning YA fantasy! Katora possesses the subtle magic that marks her as the next guardian of a powerful healing Elixir. The Elixir is such a highly guarded secret that Katora doesn’t know it exists until she’s tasked with leading a quest into a dangerous forest to retrieve its magical ingredient. Will Katora bind herself to the Elixir and become its next guardian or will she abandon her family’s legacy in the name of independence?

The books I picked & why

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An Ember in the Ashes

By Sabaa Tahir,

Book cover of An Ember in the Ashes

Why this book?

In a fantasy world inspired by ancient Rome with a Hunger Games-type tournament, a spy hiding as a slave clashes with an elite soldier who is more than meets the eye. The unexpected chemistry between Laia and Elias shines against the backdrop of the brutal world of the Empire. This story explores so many different sides of humanity, and it’s the human connections that kept me hooked and eagerly anticipating the rest of the series.


The Kiss of Deception: The Remnant Chronicles, Book One

By Mary E. Pearson,

Book cover of The Kiss of Deception: The Remnant Chronicles, Book One

Why this book?

When I finished this book, I immediately wanted to go back and read it again! Princess Lia flees her home on the day of her arranged wedding, only to find herself falling in love with two handsome strangers. She has no idea one is her betrothed prince and the other is an assassin hired to kill her. In a masterful storytelling move, the reader gets into both the love interests' heads but has no idea which is the prince and which is the assassin.


The Belles

By Dhonielle Clayton,

Book cover of The Belles

Why this book?

Don’t let the gorgeous cover fool you into thinking this story is all about beauty, though the prose and setting certainly have their share of it. I was captivated by the gray royal court where the Belles control beauty. There are no shortages of dark secrets that put them all at risk in a dangerous political game. Fun details, like miniature teacup pets, are woven seamlessly with the darker aspects of this lush world.


Finnikin of the Rock

By Melina Marchetta,

Book cover of Finnikin of the Rock

Why this book?

A kingdom cursed after the murder of the royal family is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the immersive world-building in this series. Even with all the details, the pacing of the story never falters. But it’s the dynamic and complex characters like Finnikin and Evanjalin that are so richly portrayed, I was willing to follow them on any adventure.


Grave Mercy: His Fair Assassin, Book I

By Robin Lafevers,

Book cover of Grave Mercy: His Fair Assassin, Book I

Why this book?

Ismae is the daughter of Death and trains in the ways of violence, so it’s no surprise when’s she sent deep into Brittany’s high court on an assassination mission. What she doesn’t expect is falling in love with her target. I was fascinated and enthralled by the combination of history and politics, but I fell in love with these courageous and complex young daughters of death.  


5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in slaves, nobility, and deception?

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And, 3 books we think you will enjoy!

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