A Beginner’s Guide to ‘New’ YA Fantasy (aka all the recommendations) ft. Rogue Cart

So I decided to share something a little different today.  Last year, I was contacted by the creators of Rogue Cart to create a recommendations list for their website.  (and yes, I’m only now getting around to sharing it because I’m so on top of things like that)  Rogue Cart is a place for anyone to create an account and create lists (be in top tens, favorites, etc) about any topic!
I created a list of YA Fantasy recommendations for them (honestly, were you expecting something else??) and I included books that are my absolute favorites and perfect for the fantasy beginner or an experienced reader looking for new favorites.  These are all more ‘recent’ fantasies (aka basically all from after the turn of the century) but I’m thinking of also putting together a guide for earlier fantasies and even more recent ones!  Going forward, I’m going to create a new series all about different genres, their main characteristics and my recommendations!  For now, this is just to get it all started and I’ll be doing a more in depth post on fantasy with a wider range of release dates sometime in the future.
Without further ado, let’s get onto the list!  You can also find this list on Rogue Cart’s website.

From the Ashes by Shelby K. Morrison

Released: 2015
Series: Legend of the Liberator #1
Publisher: Self-published
Personal Rating: 4.5 stars

Blurb: For eighteen years Aia Wynnald has lived a lie. Raised as a highborn in the Kingdom of Tharien, she’s filled her days with tutors and archery lessons. But simmering beneath her polite surface is a dangerous gift, one which she must keep a secret. Aia is a Bender. And in Tharien, Benders are feared and hunted.
When her unruly power breaks free with dire repercussions, Aia’s lifelong goal of independence shatters. As she scrambles to piece her life back together while evading capture, she disturbs a vengeful force intent on destroying the kingdom.
Now, with the help of an unlikely ally, Aia will decide the fate of Tharien. To rescue those she cares about will require accepting what she is. But can she risk becoming the monster she’s dreaded to save the very citizens baying for her blood?

If you’re looking for a fantasy with a battle between two peoples who aren’t as different as they seem, betrayal, and magic, this book is for you!  Maia, the main character, is a member of a race of magic-wielders who are continually hunted because they are different and therefore dangerous.  Breathtaking action, well-developed characters, and flawless POV changes; what more could a bookworm need?

The Young Elites by Marie Lu

Released: 2014
Series: The Young Elites #1
Publisher: G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers
Personal Rating: 4 stars

Blurb: I am tired of being used, hurt, and cast aside.Adelina Amouteru is a survivor of the blood fever. A decade ago, the deadly illness swept through her nation. Most of the infected perished, while many of the children who survived were left with strange markings. Adelina’s black hair turned silver, her lashes went pale, and now she has only a jagged scar where her left eye once was. Her cruel father believes she is a malfetto, an abomination, ruining their family’s good name and standing in the way of their fortune. But some of the fever’s survivors are rumored to possess more than just scars—they are believed to have mysterious and powerful gifts, and though their identities remain secret, they have come to be called the Young Elites.

Teren Santoro works for the king. As Leader of the Inquisition Axis, it is his job to seek out the Young Elites, to destroy them before they destroy the nation. He believes the Young Elites to be dangerous and vengeful, but it’s Teren who may possess the darkest secret of all.

Enzo Valenciano is a member of the Dagger Society. This secret sect of Young Elites seeks out others like them before the Inquisition Axis can. But when the Daggers find Adelina, they discover someone with powers like they’ve never seen.

Adelina wants to believe Enzo is on her side, and that Teren is the true enemy. But the lives of these three will collide in unexpected ways, as each fights a very different and personal battle. But of one thing they are all certain: Adelina has abilities that shouldn’t belong in this world. A vengeful blackness in her heart. And a desire to destroy all who dare to cross her.

It is my turn to use. My turn to hurt.

If you’re looking for a little more darkness in your diet, The Young Elites will hit the spot!  The main character has a serious case of anti-heroine and nothing is as it seems.  The book takes place in a kingdom where the aftereffects of a recent plague are felt through unexpected otherworldly powers manifesting themselves in the surviving children.  They are both hunted and worshiped and the main character, Adelina, is stuck in the middle of the fight.  This book excels in bring the term ‘morally gray’ to life!


Embrace by Jessica Shirvington

Released: 2010
Series: The Violet Eden Chapters #1
Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire
Personal Rating: 5 stars

Blurb: It starts with a whisper.

It’s time for you to know who you are…”

Stange dreams leave her with very real injuries and there’s a dark tattoo weaving its way up her arms. The guy she thought she could fall in love with just told her he’s only half-human – oh, and same goes for her. And she keeps hearing a distant fluttering of wings.

Violet Eden is having a very bad 17th bithday.

But if angels seek vengeance and humans are warriors, you could do a lot worse than betting on Violet Eden.

This book is the perfect introduction to fantasy if you’re looking to just dip a toe in the pool (besides Harry Potter, of course!).  It’s a light fantasy, set in our current world with the addition of some of the more fantastical elements (think fluffy white wings).  The main character, Violet, finds out some very startling truths about her family and herself on her 17th birthday and is essentially thrown into an otherworldly war.  There’s an abundance of action, danger, romance, and angels!


A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas

Released: 2015
Series: A Court of Thorns and Roses #1
Publisher: Bloomsbury USA Childrens
Personal Rating: 5 stars

Blurb: Feyre’s survival rests upon her ability to hunt and kill – the forest where she lives is a cold, bleak place in the long winter months. So when she spots a deer in the forest being pursued by a wolf, she cannot resist fighting it for the flesh. But to do so, she must kill the predator and killing something so precious comes at a price …

Dragged to a magical kingdom for the murder of a faerie, Feyre discovers that her captor, his face obscured by a jewelled mask, is hiding far more than his piercing green eyes would suggest. Feyre’s presence at the court is closely guarded, and as she begins to learn why, her feelings for him turn from hostility to passion and the faerie lands become an even more dangerous place. Feyre must fight to break an ancient curse, or she will lose him forever.

Looking for a loose Beauty and the Beast retelling?  And maybe even some extra fantasy and world development thrown in?  This is the book for you!  Feyre, the main character, is immersed in a world she has been trained to hate and learns it isn’t quite the nightmare she was taught to believe.  She is introduced to a an twisted villain and everything goes downhill from there.  There’s no shortage of lovely world-building, romance, and action!


The Queen of the Tearling by Erika Johansen

Released: 2014
Series: The Queen of the Tearling #1
Publisher: Harper
Personal Rating: 3.5 stars (it definitely gets better as the series progresses!)

Blurb: An untested young princess must claim her throne, learn to become a queen, and combat a malevolent sorceress in an epic battle between light and darkness in this spectacular debut—the first novel in a trilogy.

Young Kelsea Raleigh was raised in hiding after the death of her mother, Queen Elyssa, far from the intrigues of the royal Keep and in the care of two devoted servants who pledged their lives to protect her. Growing up in a cottage deep in the woods, Kelsea knows little of her kingdom’s haunted past . . . or that its fate will soon rest in her hands.

Long ago, Kelsea’s forefathers sailed away from a decaying world to establish a new land free of modern technology. Three hundred years later, this feudal society has divided into three fearful nations who pay duties to a fourth: the powerful Mortmesne, ruled by the cunning Red Queen. Now, on Kelsea’s nineteenth birthday, the tattered remnants of the Queen’s Guard—loyal soldiers who protect the throne—have appeared to escort the princess on a perilous journey to the capital to ascend to her rightful place as the new Queen of the Tearling.

Though born of royal blood and in possession of the Tear sapphire, a jewel of immense power and magic, Kelsea has never felt more uncertain of her ability to rule. But the shocking evil she discovers in the heart of her realm will precipitate an act of immense daring, throwing the entire kingdom into turmoil—and unleashing the Red Queen’s vengeance. A cabal of enemies with an array of deadly weapons, from crimson-caped assassins to the darkest blood magic, plots to destroy her. But Kelsea is growing in strength and stealth, her steely resolve earning her loyal allies, including the Queen’s Guard, led by the enigmatic Lazarus, and the intriguing outlaw known simply as “the Fetch.”

Kelsea’s quest to save her kingdom and meet her destiny has only just begun. Riddled with mysteries, betrayals, and treacherous battles, Kelsea’s journey is a trial by fire that will either forge a legend . . . or destroy her.

This is a very unique book.  Bordering on high fantasy, The Queen of the Tearling details a new monarchy that is experiencing some troubling problems.  This book also has a slight science fictiony feel as it supposedly takes place in our world in another dimension.  There’s court politics, fighting, and romance in this book as well as an abundance of magic!

The Immortal Rules by Julie Kagawa

Released: 2012
Series: Blood of Eden #1
Publisher: Harlequin Teen
Personal Rating: 5 stars

Blurb: To survive in a ruined world, she must embrace the darkness…Allison Sekemoto survives in the Fringe, the outermost circle of a walled-in city. By day, she and her crew scavenge for food. By night, any one of them could be eaten. Some days, all that drives Allie is her hatred of them—the vampires who keep humans as blood cattle. Until the night Allie herself dies and becomes one of the monsters.

Forced to flee her city, Allie must pass for human as she joins a ragged group of pilgrims seeking a legend—a place that might have a cure for the disease that killed off most of civilization and created the rabids, the bloodthirsty creatures who threaten human and vampire alike. And soon Allie will have to decide what and who is worth dying for…again.

Enter Julie Kagawa’s dark and twisted world as an unforgettable journey begins.

If you’re a vampire lover (or more generally, paranormal creatures), this book is for you!  This is a light fantasy, set in our current world, with the addition of some paranormal creatures.  The heroine, Ali, is raised to hate and fear the vampires that now govern humanity, until she is forced to become one herself to survive.  Through exploring the themes of life, death, and morality, this book is a true onion!  Read it for the blood-sucking living dead, or read it for the discussion it puts forth; the choice is yours!


Graceling by Kristin Cashore

Released: 2008
Series: Graceling Realm #1
Publisher: Harcourt
Personal Rating: 5 stars

Blurb: Katsa has been able to kill a man with her bare hands since she was eight—she’s a Graceling, one of the rare people in her land born with an extreme skill. As niece of the king, she should be able to live a life of privilege, but Graced as she is with killing, she is forced to work as the king’s thug.

She never expects to fall in love with beautiful Prince Po.

She never expects to learn the truth behind her Grace—or the terrible secret that lies hidden far away . . . a secret that could destroy all seven kingdoms with words alone.

With elegant, evocative prose and a cast of unforgettable characters, debut author Kristin Cashore creates a mesmerizing world, a death-defying adventure, and a heart-racing romance that will consume you, hold you captive, and leave you wanting more.

Graceling is the story of Katsa, a woman with special powers whose only outward indication is two differently colored eyes, thus indicating she is a Graceling.  While most Graces are essentially useless (having a giraffe-like tongue or being able to turn one’s mouth inside out), Katsa’s Grace is killing, or so she is led to believe.  The story is set in a world of seven kingdoms and there is danger afoot.  Follow Katsa on her adventures in finding herself, and finding the true villain in a book filled with romance, breath-taking fighting, and court intrigue!

Grave Mercy by Robin LaFevers

Released: 2012
Series: His Fair Assassin #1
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Personal Rating: 5 stars

Blurb: Why be the sheep, when you can be the wolf?Seventeen-year-old Ismae escapes from the brutality of an arranged marriage into the sanctuary of the convent of St. Mortain, where the sisters still serve the gods of old. Here she learns that the god of Death Himself has blessed her with dangerous gifts—and a violent destiny. If she chooses to stay at the convent, she will be trained as an assassin and serve as a handmaiden to Death. To claim her new life, she must destroy the lives of others.

Ismae’s most important assignment takes her straight into the high court of Brittany—where she finds herself woefully under prepared—not only for the deadly games of intrigue and treason, but for the impossible choices she must make. For how can she deliver Death’s vengeance upon a target who, against her will, has stolen her heart?

This is the perfect mix of fantasy and historical fiction.  If you’re a history lover, or even simply someone who enjoys a good past time setting, you’ll love this series.  Grave Mercy and it’s fellow series members are set in the 15th century and chronicle the tales of Ismae, Sybella, and Annith, three of Death’s handmaidens.  They are trained in a convent devoted to the god of Death, Mortain, and are trained in the grace of death (aka killing).  Sent out as assassins and influencers of the court, many new revelations confound them.  There are plenty of dangerous weapons, court intrigue, and romance in this historical series!


Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor

Released: 2011
Series: Daughter of Smoke and Bone #1
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Personal Rating: 4 stars

Blurb: Around the world, black hand prints are appearing on doorways, scorched there by winged strangers who have crept through a slit in the sky.

In a dark and dusty shop, a devil’s supply of human teeth grows dangerously low.

And in the tangled lanes of Prague, a young art student is about to be caught up in a brutal otherworldly war.

Meet Karou. She fills her sketchbooks with monsters that may or may not be real, she’s prone to disappearing on mysterious “errands”, she speaks many languages – not all of them human – and her bright blue hair actually grows out of her head that color. Who is she? That is the question that haunts her, and she’s about to find out.

When beautiful, haunted Akiva fixes fiery eyes on her in an alley in Marrakesh, the result is blood and starlight, secrets unveiled, and a star-crossed love whose roots drink deep of a violent past. But will Karou live to regret learning the truth about herself?

Daughter of Smoke & Bone is a perfect mix of light and high fantasy.  Set in both our current world and a parallel universe, the story follows Karou, a teenager living in Prague with an unusual ancestry.  She works for a monster who has raised her in the business of teeth collecting.  For what purpose these teeth will serve, Karou doesn’t know which is the beginning of the mystery.  This series follows her as she discovers who she is and where she came from with plenty of fantastical creatures and warfare in the mix.


Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J.K. Rowling

Released: 1997
Series: Harry Potter #1
Publisher: Scholastic Inc.
Personal Rating: 5 stars

Blurb: Harry Potter’s life is miserable. His parents are dead and he’s stuck with his heartless relatives, who force him to live in a tiny closet under the stairs. But his fortune changes when he receives a letter that tells him the truth about himself: he’s a wizard. A mysterious visitor rescues him from his relatives and takes him to his new home, Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.

After a lifetime of bottling up his magical powers, Harry finally feels like a normal kid. But even within the Wizarding community, he is special. He is the boy who lived: the only person to have ever survived a killing curse inflicted by the evil Lord Voldemort, who launched a brutal takeover of the Wizarding world, only to vanish after failing to kill Harry.

Though Harry’s first year at Hogwarts is the best of his life, not everything is perfect. There is a dangerous secret object hidden within the castle walls, and Harry believes it’s his responsibility to prevent it from falling into evil hands. But doing so will bring him into contact with forces more terrifying than he ever could have imagined.

Full of sympathetic characters, wildly imaginative situations, and countless exciting details, the first installment in the series assembles an unforgettable magical world and sets the stage for many high-stakes adventures to come.

A true classic for any fantasy lover (or book lover for that matter).  The Harry Potter series serve as a superb introduction to the world of fantasy and mythical beasts of all origins.  There is everything from centaurs to warlocks, spells to magic mirrors.  Set in our current world, the series centers around a young boy, Harry Potter, who has grown up to be a ‘normal’ boy.  Little does he know that his deceased parents were not all his aunt and uncle led him to believe.  Filled with action, suspense, magic, and adventure, the Harry Potter series is not one to be skipped!

Have you read any of these? What did you think of them? What other recommendations do you have? Let me know down below and be on the lookout for an updated post for more recent fantasies and earlier ones!

0 thoughts on “A Beginner’s Guide to ‘New’ YA Fantasy (aka all the recommendations) ft. Rogue Cart”

  1. For sure! Ugh, right! There are so many books and not enough time! That's why I'm thinking of holding off on doing a more recent fantasy recommendations post because honestly there just hasn't been time to read more recent fantasies. Thanks for stopping by, Olivia!


  2. I've recently really been getting into fantasy so this is the perfect post for me! I have read a few of these, and I own a couple of them unread on my shelves. As a fan of the Beauty and the Beast story I also loved ACOTAR and I second that recommendation!


  3. I'm glad! Right? ACOTAR is just so great. Honestly, at first I didn't catch the whole Beauty and the Beast connection (I can predict endings 9.5 times out of 10 but somehow miss Disney references…) but once I saw it, it made complete sense 🙂 Thanks for stopping by, Wren!


  4. Love your list as it's filled with some of my favorites, such as ACOTAR, Harry Potter and DOSAB, but also has so many new books for me to check out. Grave Mercy has been on my TBR for too long already, so maybe I should start there 🙂


  5. I liked Grave Mercy a lot, and I thought the Queen of the Tearling was pretty good too, although I lost interest in the second book, sadly. The Young Elites is one I definitely want to try!


  6. I can definitely understand that. If you're not into the world, it can get really dense really fast. I hope you enjoy TYE when you get around to it! It has such a lovely case of anti-hero going on 🙂 Thanks for stopping by, Greg!Laura @BlueEyeBooks


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