The best YA fantasies for when you’re craving a journey or quest

Why am I passionate about this?

Journey stories were what first drew me to fantasy as a reader. I grew up doing a lot of amateur camping and hiking with my family, and liked to pretend—whilst tramping along rocky, Oklahoma paths through the woods—that I was lost in an enchanted forest, or trekking bravely across perilous lands with the hopes of many on my shoulders. In college I even taught a summer camp class called Mountain Man, which took students through the woods, teaching them about various plants and roots. Tolkien was my first fantasy love, and I never feel more at home than when I’m on a fictional journey to save the world.

I wrote...

Ignite the Sun

By Hanna Howard,

Book cover of Ignite the Sun

What is my book about?

Sixteen-year-old Siria Nightingale has never seen the sun. That’s because Queen Iyzabel shrouded the kingdom in shadow upon her ascent to the throne, with claims it would protect her subjects from the dangerous Light.

The Darkness has always left Siria uneasy, and part of her still longs for the stories of the Light-filled days she once listened to alongside her best friend Linden, told in secret by Linden’s grandfather. But Siria’s need to please her strict and demanding parents means embracing the dark and heading to the royal city—the very center of Queen Izybel’s power—for a chance at a coveted placement at court. And what Siria discovers at the Choosing Ball sends her on a quest toward the last vestiges of Light.

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of The Naming

Hanna Howard Why did I love this book?

The Naming, which is the first in The Books of Pellinor quartet, was the first true YA quest novel I ever read. As a Tolkien nerd who was greatly inspired in high school by the Lord of the Rings—almost certainly the series which made me a fantasy writer myself—I had never encountered anything in YA that came close to the depth of landscape worldbuilding that Tolkien so masterfully executes in his books. And in The Naming I felt like I had finally entered a world as intricate and well-developed as Middle-earth—or as close as the faster pace of YA narrative would allow. What was more, our reluctant quester turned out to be a young woman, and I was both thrilled and relieved to see myself in Maerad as I joined her on her journey. 

By Alison Croggon,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Naming 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?

"An epic fantasy in the Tolkien tradition, with a strong girl hero. . . . I couldn’t put it down!" – Tamora Pierce

Maerad is a slave in a desperate and unforgiving settlement, taken there as a child when her family is destroyed in war. She doesn’t yet know she has inherited a powerful gift, one that marks her as a member of the noble School of Pellinor and enables her to see the world as no other can. It is only when she is discovered by Cadvan, one of the great Bards of Lirigon, that her true identity and…

Book cover of Graceling

Hanna Howard Why did I love this book?

When I first read Graceling, I was a young bookseller at Barnes & Noble, fresh out of college and writing in every scrap of spare time I had. Graceling showed me a new vista of what YA fantasy could be: daring, creative, completely magical. In Katsa, our hardened heroine, I saw a protagonist who starts out with both room and a desperate need for growth, and I loved watching her change as she journeyed both literally and emotionally. But I also learned something new: fantasy journey narratives could go at a breakneck pace! Graceling is a book I have devoured more than once, as both the characters and the plot are impossible to step away from until the story gallops to a close.

By Kristin Cashore,

Why should I read it?

7 authors picked Graceling 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?

Discover the Graceling Realm in this unforgettable, award-winning novel from bestselling author Kristin Cashore.

A New York Times bestseller
ALA Best Book for Young Adults
Mythopoeic Fantasy Award for Children's Literature Winner
Publishers Weekly, School Library Journal,Booklist, and BCCB Best Book of the Year

"Rageful, exhilarating, wistful in turns" (The New York Times Book Review) with "a knee weakening romance" (LA Times). Graceling is a thrilling, action-packed fantasy adventure that will resonate deeply with anyone trying to find their way in the world.

Graceling tells the story of the vulnerable-yet-strong Katsa, who is smart and beautiful and lives in the…

Book cover of Sabriel

Hanna Howard Why did I love this book?

I have still never read anything else like Garth Nix’s Old Kingdom books. Sabriel, the phenomenal introduction to Nix’s world of necromancers and seers, talking animals, and gated rivers flowing down into Death, follows the daughter of the current Abhorsen—the bell-wielding, good necromancer who keeps the dead dead—as she learns about her heritage and inheritance and gets swept up in her father’s old conflicts. Featuring the most catlike cat fiction has ever seen, a kingdom-sweeping, perilous journey, and one of the coolest magic systems I’ve read. Every time I enter the Old Kingdom, I am incredibly reluctant to leave.

By Garth Nix,

Why should I read it?

11 authors picked Sabriel 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?

A stunning anniversary gift edition of the second in the bestselling Old Kingdom fantasy series.

Sabriel has spent most of her young life far away from the magical realm of the Old Kingdom, and the Dead that roam it. But then a creature from across the Wall arrives at her all-girls boarding school with a message from her father, the Abhorsen - the magical protector of the realm whose task it is to bind and send back to Death those that won't stay Dead. Sabriel's father has been trapped in Death by a dangerous Free Magic creature.

Armed with her…

Book cover of Echo North

Hanna Howard Why did I love this book?

Based on East of the Sun, West of the Moon—possibly the most journey-centered fairy tale of all—this lyrical, gorgeous book takes place in a fantasy version of Siberia that is as atmospheric as it is magical. I was privileged to read a very early version of this story, and I was frustrated I couldn’t immediately go out and buy a copy for everyone I knew. (Now I can—and have!) Our heroine, Echo, is one of the most tenacious gals I’ve met on the page, and she will totally blow you away with her selfless depth of love for the (not always lovable) hero. Also, magic mirrors that are books you can literally walk into? Enchanted houses that need magical sewing back together? Journeys that defy both time and space? Get thee to a bookshop.

By Joanna Ruth Meyer,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Echo North as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 14, 15, 16, and 17.

What is this book about?

In his enchanted house beneath a mountain, each room must be sewn together to keep the home from unraveling, and something new and dark and strange lies behind every door. When centuries-old secrets unfold, Echo discovers a magical library full of books- turned-mirrors, and a young man named Hal who is trapped inside of them. As the year ticks by, the rooms begin to disappear and Echo must solve the mystery of the wolf's enchantment before her time is up otherwise Echo, the wolf, and Hal will be lost forever.

Book cover of The Beholder

Hanna Howard Why did I love this book?

This book is certainly a journey book, but it deviates from the classic trope by putting that journey on a ship and giving the mishaps and adventures mostly to moments in-between the actual travelling. I was initially a little fooled by the cover and the blurb for this one, expecting a sugar-sweet romance and a Cinderella-worthy heroine; but she is Cinderella with far more depth and character than I’ve seen her before, and her romance is authentic and surprising. I was constantly blown away by the clever interweaving of fairy tale and myth in this story, all tied into a setting that is both familiar and new. When the book was over, I reached immediately for the sequel. Selah was a kindred spirit, and her story delighted me over and over again.

By Anna Bright,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked The Beholder as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 14, 15, 16, and 17.

What is this book about?

"Sparkles with beauty, intrigue, and romance."-Kiera Cass, #1 New York Times bestselling author of the Selection series

Selah has waited her whole life for a happily ever after. As the only daughter of the leader of Potomac, she knows her duty is to find the perfect match.

But after an excruciatingly public rejection, Selah's stepmother suggests an unthinkable solution: Selah must set sail across the Atlantic to visit a series of potential suitors-and if she doesn't come home engaged, she shouldn't come home at all.

From the gardens of England to the fjords of Norge, Selah's quest will be the…

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Book cover of From Cells to Ourselves: The Story of Evolution

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