Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly feature/meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. This week’s topic is Top Ten Things Every X Should Read.
You’ve read Narnia, Harry Potter, and Percy Jackson. Now what?
Here are 10 more fantasy books and series to dive into after you’ve gone through the wardrobe, taken the Hogwarts Express, and attended Camp Half-Blood.
Middle-grade to me means grades 4-8. Some books in this list trend toward the younger end of that spread, some toward the upper end. All could also be read by YA and adult readers. The list is alphabetical by author.
- The Chronicles of Prydain (Lloyd Alexander) draws on Welsh mythology as it follows an orphan boy’s journey to manhood. There’s plenty of magic, but in the end, it’s the humanity in the stories that will stick with you well into adulthood. (My review)
- The Green Knowe series (L. M. Boston) This series takes place in an around an ancient, unusual house in Britain (Green Knowe); the first two and the final book involve time travel or ghosts (it’s never quite clear which), while two of the middle ones are more “magicky.” And one of them (A Stranger at Green Knowe) isn’t really a fantasy at all, though it is special. My favorites are the first two, The Children of Green Knowe and The Treasure of Green Knowe. But the others are good too.
- The Dark is Rising series (Susan Cooper) The forces of Light and Dark clash in 20th-century Britain in this classic fantasy series, which remains one of my favorites to this day.
- The Ranger’s Apprentice series (John Flanagan) Will longs more than anything to become a knight, but ends up apprenticed to Halt the Ranger. The series takes him from early apprenticeship to adulthood, and through battles, invasions, captivity, intrigue, and espionage, all set in a world that’s clearly an analog of Europe. The writing is sometimes a little clunky, but the adventures are compelling and the storytelling is excellent.
- The Little White Horse (Elizabeth Goudge) This charming fairytale set in 18th-century England is one of my favorite children’s books – and one of J. K. Rowling’s favorites as well. (My review)
- A Snicker of Magic (Natalie Lloyd) Magical realism more than straight fantasy, this book about the magic of words captured my heart a few years ago. (My review)
- Dragonsong and Dragonsinger (Anne McCaffrey) Menolly’s musical gift isn’t appreciated by her sexist father and feudal overlord, so she runs away to live Holdless, and ends up apprenticed to the Harper Hall. Technically, the Pern novels are science fiction, not fantasy, but the psuedo-medieval social structure and customs — and the dragons both large and small — make the books feel indistinguishable from fantasy. (Note that book #3 in the trilogy, Dragondrums, is decidedly more YA, and McCaffrey’s other Pern novels are adult fantasy.)
- The Ascendance Trilogy (Jennifer A. Nielsen) The False Prince introduces Sage, a thief and orphan caught up in a nobleman’s scheme to replace the missing heir to the throne with an impersonator. Sage is a highly unreliable narrator, and the layers upon layers of treachery and lies — his own, and those of the people around him — keep suspense levels high. (My reviews: The False Prince; The Runaway King; The Shadow Throne)
- The Circle of Magic Quartet (Tamora Pierce) Four children with unusual magical talents form a reluctant alliance, then a family, in this series about elemental magics. Strong writing, a diverse cast of characters, and terrific worldbuilding make the Circle of Magic books shine.
- First Test and Page (Tamora Pierce’s Protector of the Small quartet) Kel is the first girl to openly train for her knighthood in a hundred years or more. A hero for every child, girl or boy, Kel stands up to bullies, faces her own fears, and never, ever gives up. She’s also refreshingly ordinary — she has no magic, and she’s talented but not unusually or supernaturally gifted. She is, however, determined. (Note: Save these two for your mature middle-grader or young YA reader, because they’re going to want to go on to books #3 and #4 of the quartet, which include some more mature themes.) (My review)
- The Perilous Gard (Elizabeth Marie Pope) Tudor England meets the darker side of Faerie in this retelling of the Tam Lin story. As much (or more) historical novel as fantasy, the book leaves it up to the reader to decide whether those the villagers call Fairy Folk are truly fae, or merely human. I also highly recommend The Sherwood Ring by the same author: Revolutionary War history told by ghosts (but not at all scary.)
More recommendations, from Robin and her friends
- The Lionboy trilogy (Zizou Corder)
- Dragon Rider (Cornelia Funke)
- The Books of Bayern series (Shannon Hale)
- Redwall (Brian Jacques) If you like audiobooks, try to find the full-cast audio recording.
- The Queen’s Thief series (Megan Whalen Turner)