The Top 10 YA Fantasy Series (for ALL AGES)
By: Preston Simmons | Written: 12 Aug 2021
What does YA Fantasy Stand For?
YA Fantasy (or Fantasy YA) stands for Young Adult Fantasy or Fantasy – Young Adult. It’s a genre of fantasy that’s target audience is 12-18 years old. Though, that doesn’t mean that those of that age can only read YA Fantasy. YA Fantasy is meant for all ages that are capable of reading. In fact, many of these books (that will be on this list) are read by millions of kids younger than 12 and millions of adults older than 18.
It’s an extremely welcoming genre type for readers of all ages because, typically, the books are pretty easy to read. Since these books are meant for young adults, none of the vocabulary or topics will be too difficult for the reader to grasp. They are going to be easy to digest and understand for most.
Also, many of the books are great for read-along for parents and kids. Each reader will find something in the books that speak to them in some way. Whether you are an adult or a kid, you will enjoy the books for your own reasons.
These books are also great if you are getting back into reading. None of the books are 1000s of pages long, like some epic fantasy books. This genre contains books that are fun, creative, and just easy enough to read for a person who doesn’t want to spend all day looking at a book (unless that’s your thing, then I salute you).
Ready to find the best books in this genre? Here are the Top 10 series in Young Adult Fantasy ranked!
#10 – Ender’s Saga by Orsan Scott Card
Ender’s Saga is one of the most iconic Sci-Fi Fantasy YA series on the market. For many people, including myself, this is their first entry into the sci-fi genre. Beginning with Ender’s Game, the story follows Andrew “Ender” Wiggin, a boy genius, as he goes off the military school to learn the essence of military battle and command. It also follows his brother and sister on Earth as they subtly use their own genius to control or influence the people of the planet.
There a many books in Ender’s Saga where some of them don’t even follow Ender himself. Even still, all the books are incredible and definitely worthy of being included in the list of best YA fantasy books.
In addition, like many of the series that will be on the list, there is a 2013 movie adaptation starring Harrison Ford, Asa Butterfield, Hailee Steinfeld, and Ben Kingsley. Unfortunately, it’s not the greatest film around. In fact, you are probably better skipping it altogether and just reading the book.
If you are interested in Ender’s Saga, start by reading Ender’s Game which you can find here.
#9 – The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S Lewis
There is absolutely no way I could make a list of the best YA series without including The Chronicles of Narnia. Narnia is one of the oldest series on the list, originally being published between 1950 and 1956. The seven books, however, are timeless. However, some themes are more relevant to the events in the world of 1950. For example, World War II is a prevalent theme in the oldest entry in the series The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe.
The story is massive in the fact that it follows multiple characters over a long stretch of time. Each of the protagonists in the story comes from our world and somehow ends up in Narnia through magical means or by accident. In Narnia, they must face the forces of evil and protect the land with the help of Aslan, the lion.
The reading order is as follows: The Magicians Nephew, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, The Horse and His Boy, Prince Caspian, The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, The Silver Chair, The Last Battle.
There are also great movie adaptations of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, Prince Caspian, and Voyage of the Dawn Treader. Also, Netflix announced that they will be making their own adaptation of the Chronicles of Narnia, though there is no news on the release date just yet.
If you’re interested in exploring Narnia, you can find the books here!
#8 – Grishaverse by Leigh Bardugo
After the big three of YA fiction came to an end (Harry Potter, Hunger Games, Twilight), many people asked themselves, “what’s next?” The answer to that question came in the Grishaverse series by Leigh Bardugo. This series took the fantasy YA world by storm. People fell in love with the characters, the magic system, and most importantly, the love triangle between the three main characters.
Starting with Shadow and Bone, the series follows Alina Starkov as she learns how to harness her new powers to save the ones she loves and the world in the process. The companion duology, Six of Crows, follows a young group of characters led by Kaz Brekker as they traverse the underbellies of the Grisha-controlled world.
These are top-rated books that millions of people have read. In addition, Netflix has recently released an adaptation of the first novel Shadow and Bone, which received great reviews overall. It’s a great series for all ages.
If you’re interested in reading the Grishaverse, start with Shadow and Bone, which you can find here.
#7 – Percy Jackson and the Olympians by Rick Riordan
Percy Jackson and the Olympians is an entertaining and easy-to-read YA Fantasy series. If the idea of the Greek mythology gods and heroes in modern times sounds interesting, you’re gonna love these books. Personally, this might be the most nostalgic series on the list. Starting with The Lightning Thief, the series follows Percy Jackson and his friends as they take on quests to help various Gods and Greek deities. They also learn more about themselves along the way, considering they are demigods.
This is the series as a kid that I was most excited about new releases. When I was 12, I loved the books then. As an adult, I recently went back to re-read the series after putting it down for a while, and I have to say, I love it even to this day. The series has some of the coolest worldbuilding out there, and that’s saying something considering the other books that will show up on the list.
Unfortunately, this is another series that has been butchered on the big screen. The only positive to the movie is that it brought the world Alexandra Daddario, and she’s awesome. Other than that, it’s totally skippable. The book series, though, is an A+ for YA Fantasy.
If you’re interested in Percy Jackson and his exploits, you can start by reading The Lightning Thief, which can be found here!
#6 – His Dark Materials by Philip Pullman
If I put the Chronicles of Narnia on this list, there was absolutely no way I could leave out His Dark Materials by Philip Pullman. This series has been called the anti-Narnia. And there’s a good reason for that. While Narnia is very heavily Christian based thematically, His Dark Materials is more of a deconstruction of the Christian religion. Both are great series, and both are worth reading.
His Dark Materials follows Lyra, a young girl who is destined to change the balance of the world by freeing it from the control of the magisterium, the church-like government that uses its powers to repress people’s ties to magic and their spirit animals, known as daemons.
There is so much that people of all ages can learn by reading the His Dark Materials books. Themes include free will, freedom through knowledge, and the importance of sex to maturation. If that doesn’t intrigue you enough, maybe the talking, armored polar bears would.
In addition, HBO released an incredible adaptation of the series that brings the world to life in a wonderful way. It stars Dafne Keene, Ruth Wilson, James McAvoy (who plays Mr. Tumnus in Narnia), Lin-Manuel Miranda, and Amir Wilson.
If you are interested in His Dark Materials, start with the first book in the series, Golden Compass, which you can find here.
#5 – The Cradle Series by Will Wight
The Cradle Series by Will Wight is probably one of my favorite series I’ve read in recent memory. If you have read any of my past articles, you know that I am a big fan of progression fantasy. Cradle is, by far, the best progression fantasy series out there. Well, as it turns out, it also can be considered a YA Fantasy book.
The Cradle Series follows Lindon, an unsouled, as he forges his own path on the quest to become the greatest sacred arts user from Sacred Valley. There is a ton of training, a ton of action, an amazing cast of characters, and a pretty great magic system as well.
I would recommend this series to people who enjoy watching characters start weak and progressively getting stronger as it goes on. Of all the books on this list, the Cradle Series will probably be the most addicting one you read. I know, personally, I finished the first 8 books in less than one week. They are that good.
You can find book one of the Cradle Series, Unsouled, here! Reaper, book 9 in the series, will release by the end of 2021 as well! Also, as a heads up, Will Wight often makes all the books in the series free to read, so be on the lookout for great deals.
Related: Best Progression Fantasy for beginners.
#4 – Earthsea Cycle by Ursala K. Le Guin
The Earthsea Cycle is arguably one of the most well-written series on the list. Earlier I mentioned how YA Fantasy is great for readers of all ages. In most cases, that statement is true. However, in some cases, that statement is a stretch. This is one of those cases. The Earthsea Cycle’s primary audience indeed is 13 to 18-year-olds. However, of all the books on the list, this is the slowest.
This series is very metaphysical in nature. You will like this book if you enjoy reading about morality, spirituality, and anything but lighthearted topics. If not, it could be difficult to get through. That said, the series is incredible and one of the best YA fantasy series and one of the best fantasy series in general.
The Earthsea Cycle follows Sparrowhawk, a young man and future sorcerer. It is the tale of his testing, how he mastered the mighty words of power, tamed an ancient dragon, and crossed death’s threshold to restore balance.
If you are a fan of anime, Studio Ghibli also released an incredible movie in 2006 based on the first four books called Tales from Earthsea. You can watch the trailer for it here.
You can read The Earthsea Cycle beginning with book one, A Wizard of Earthsea, here!
#3 – Red Rising SAga by Pierce Brown
You might be wondering why I didn’t add Hunger Games to the list yet, and spoiler: you won’t see it either. Hunger Games is a pretty good series and is one of the most read YA fantasy books. It’s a pretty good dystopian book as well. However, Hunger Games doesn’t hold a candle to the Red Rising Saga.
This series is, by far, the best in the YA Fantasy Sci-Fi Dystopian genre, which says a lot considering how many there are out there.
Honestly, I don’t want to give a lot away about this series because it’s best to go in completely blind, so I’ll leave you with this: READ THIS SERIES. Seriously, please do yourself a favor and check it out. Oh, and the audiobook is incredible also, so you might want to listen to it while you’re at it.
You can find the first book in the series, Red Rising, here!
#2 – Harry Potter by J.K Rowling
Probably the most predictable series on the list, Harry Potter has the biggest fandom in all of YA literature. Harry Potter has influenced so many books, movies, anime, and television shows. There are even multiple theme parks built based on the series.
What other literary piece of work can claim that? The closest I can think of is Hobbiton in New Zealand, based on the Shire from the Lord of the Rings. But that was a movie set turned attraction, rather than the attraction built specifically because of the popularity of the books.
This series has generated thousands of fanfictions based on it, and even one I recommend myself for many to read if you enjoy rational fiction.
In short, it should be no surprise that Harry Potter is on the list. There is a reason why it is by far the most famous and most-read series in the world. If you haven’t read it yet, you should, if only to see the series that defined an entire generation.
You can find book one, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, here!
#1 – Mistborn Series by Brandon Sanderson
I had a difficult time choosing the best YA fantasy book for the list. Many books are more famous, more read, and more influential. However, if I just had those aspects as the indicator for the best, Harry Potter would have rightfully been number one.
Instead, I was looking for the overall best. What was the fantasy series written for young adults that contained compelling characters, an amazing magic system, a great romance, memorable action scenes, and manages to deliver it all in an easy-to-read way?
Brandon Sanderson’s Mistborn series had all the aspects I was looking for and more. I wrote about Mistborn and all the other Sanderson’s Cosemere books in a past article, but I’ll try to explain why it deserves the top spot on the list if you haven’t read it.
First, the characters. Vin, Kelsier, Sazed, Elend, Wax, and Wayne. Throughout the timeline, these characters are unique, incredibly well written, all with their own desires and goals.
The second is the magic system. Allomancy is such a cool system and one of the most clever in fantasy altogether. It’s a magic system based on science.
Third, and finally, the continuity. The way Sanderson connects the Mistborn Eras to the rest of his Cosmere books is genius. If you read Mistborn and then read any of his other books, you’ll find connections to the books in some way or another.
You can find book one in the series, Mistborn: The Final Empire, here!
RELATED: Best Cosmere Reading Order
These are the top 10 best YA fantasy books in 2021. Have any others you would add to the list or replace? Leave a comment below and let me know!