The best YA fantasy novels with magic and intrigue

The Books I Picked & Why

Crown Duel

By Sherwood Smith

Book cover of Crown Duel

Why this book?

I have to recommend this book first because it is one that has stayed with me through the years and inspired my own writing. It features one of my favorite reluctant heroines, Meliara Astiar, as she battles against a tyrant king in the land of Remalna. As the countess of a backwater province, Mel has little understanding of the complicated politics of the capital. When she declares a rebellion against the tyrant king, she soon finds herself embroiled in a fast-moving game of intrigue, magic, violence, betrayal, and romance. Ultimately, Mel will have to decide whether she’s willing to live beneath an evil king—or die trying to dethrone him.

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A Crown of Wishes

By Roshani Chokshi

Book cover of A Crown of Wishes

Why this book?

This stunning jewel of a novel totally swept me away—I laughed, I cried, I swooned. When warrior-princess Gauri of the kingdom of Bharata is taken prisoner by the opposing kingdom of Ujijain, the so-called Fox-Prince Vikram makes her a deal. If she travels with him to the magical realm of Alaka to compete in the mythical Tournament of Wishes, they will both have a chance to earn their freedom and autonomy in the vicious world of high-stakes politics. But as they negotiate a magical, dangerous, seductive world they know nothing of, they’ll begin to realize that the thing they most want…might just be each other. I was so invested in this magical adventure—each scene offered something thrilling and unexpected. Plus, the banter between the main characters was to die for!

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Grave Mercy: His Fair Assassin, Book I

By Robin Lafevers

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

Why this book?

This book had me hooked from the first page, and features some of the most captivating world-building I’ve ever read. In France in the middle ages, Ismae escapes from the brutality of an arranged marriage to a convent where an ancient god is worshiped by warrior nuns. There, she becomes an assassin, killing men whose wickedness marks them for death. But when her violent destiny leads her to the high court of Brittany, she’ll have to team up with a handsome young lord whose motives she doesn’t trust. Treachery, treason, magic, violence, and romance made this a thrilling read, and I couldn’t wait to find out whether Ismae would choose death…or love.

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The Belles

By Dhonielle Clayton

Book cover of The Belles

Why this book?

I read this book without knowing what to expect and was absolutely enthralled by this stunning world of decadence and illusion. In the opulent world of Orleans, Camellia is a Belle—one of the chosen few who controls the commodity of beauty. When she is summoned to the court of the Queen, Camellia soon realizes the gilded walls of the palace hide dark secrets and creeping treachery. I was blown away by the creativity behind the decadent world Clayton created, and was seduced by both its visions of lavishness and its thoughtful take on the value of beauty and how looks can be deceiving. 

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The Orphan Queen

By Jodi Meadows

Book cover of The Orphan Queen

Why this book?

This book contains everything I love in a novel—deadly magic, mistaken identities, court intrigue, female friendships, and perhaps most importantly, romance! Exiled princess Wilhelmina has a vendetta against the Indigo Kingdom which long ago invaded her homeland and murdered her family. With the help of her best friend, she infiltrates the royal court in disguise and seeks to regain her throne. But obstacles are many—Wil harbors a magical secret that just might get her killed, a masked vigilante won’t leave her alone, and a magical blight is slowly sweeping through the land and destroying everything in its path. I was on the edge of my seat the entire time as I read this captivating book, and when it ended with a cliffhanger I nearly had a heart attack! Fortunately its sequel answered all my questions and more.

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