Is This Just Fantasy?: Fantastic Adult Fiction For The Voracious YA Fantasy Fan
I love sharing, discussing, and contemplating fantasy fiction–especially with fellow fans and readers. Happily, opportunities for such conversations happen on an almost daily basis for me. Many of the most voracious readers among my students are fantasy fans; even as their tastes expand, these readers return again and again to this genre. So where’s an ardent fantasy reader to turn when she exhausts her local library’s supply of young adult fantasy? One solution is to expand the search area–into the world of adult fantasy fiction.
For some, the easiest entry into a new area of fiction is through an author. For example, Neil Gaiman writes highly imaginative fiction imbued with dark beauty and twisted humor; his adult fiction is highly popular with teens at my library. Fans of unusual fairytale retellings might start with delightful Stardust (2000 Alex Award) while urban and offbeat high fantasy readers should investigate American Gods or Neverwhere. And frankly, all fantasy readers should read his most recent release, the enchanting The Ocean At The End of The Lane.
Readers might also investigate authors such as: Juliet Marillier, who publishes romantic legend-inspired fantasy for both the young adult and adult fiction markets, Marion Zimmer Bradley, who wrote an old favorite of mine, the female-focused Arthurian epic The Mists of Avalon, or George R. R. Martin, the author of the increasingly popular Game of Thrones series. Additionally, our high school book club mentioned Anne Bishop, Jim Butcher, and Patrick Rothfuss.
However, it might also be a particular title that attracts a reader to this new resource pool. Here, I’ve gathered a few novels recently published in the adult fiction market that will likely appeal to readers of young adult fantasy.
The Night Circus – Erin Morgenstern (2012 Alex Award) ”The circus arrives without warning.” One night the black and white striped tents will suddenly appear and for a brief time, the locals will have the opportunity to enter into a world of magic–to discover the feast for the senses beyond the circus’ wrought iron fence. But behind the thrilling illusions rages a deadly competition between two young magicians, trained from childhood to battle each other.
This vibrant, dreamlike novel remains one of the most recommended at my library–even readers less interested in fantasy proclaim their love for this romantic and imaginative tale.
The Bone Season - Samantha Shannon In an alternative future, England is ruled by the totalitarian Scion and clairvoyance is highly illegal. Paige Mahoney is a powerful dreamwalker working for a powerful voyant syndicate in London’s criminal underworld. But when she’s arrested and sent off to a hidden penal colony, even Paige’s rare gifts seem useless—especially when she learns that her jailers are not the Scion but the Rephaim, extradimensional beings connected to the same force that powers clairvoyants’ abilities. Determined to free herself and others, Paige becomes deeply entangled in a complex series of schemes—and a potential civil war.
This recent debut raced through the ranks of fantasy aficionados at my library and remains highly praised at book club meetings. This kick off for a futuristic fantasy of at least seven novels contains high action thrills, complex mythology, and romance.
Moth and Spark - Anne Leonard The country is on the verge of a dangerous war. Prince Corin recently returned from the north with unexplained gaps in his memory–and a strange connection to the nation’s long lost dragons. Tam, the sensible daughter of a respected doctor, has arrived at court to spend the summer observing the spectacle; she did not plan to run into the prince in the library–or to accept his impulsive dinner invitation. But as the war comes closer and Tam discovers that she is a Seer, these unlikely lovers have much more to worry about than the social rituals keeping them apart.
For readers who enjoy a more traditional high fantasy full of dragons, epic romance, and palace intrigues, this 2014 debut would be a prime choice.
While Beauty Slept - Elizabeth Blackwell A beautiful princess lies asleep in a tower within a silent castle, waiting for a prince to wake her with a kiss. But is that the real story? A young peasant woman loses everything and heads to the royal castle to seek a chance at a new life. A gentle queen is desperate to have a child. The king’s aunt remains hungry for the power she was denied as a woman in the royal family. In a dark tale of ambition, love, loss, & intrigue, the true story behind the fairy tale is slowly revealed.
Lacking magic or supernatural elements, this novel doesn’t fit neatly into the fantasy genre. Instead, it reads like historical fiction about an invented, pseudo-European medieval world, making this title all the more appealing to both avid fantasy and historical fiction fans.
The Golem and The Jinni - Helene Wecker In 1899, New York City is the destination for thousands of immigrants, people seeking a new chance at a different life. And within the city’s multifaceted international communities are two highly unusual arrivals: Chava, a golem whose master died on the ship from Poland, and Ahmad, a jinni recently freed from a thousand year old flask after his entrapment in the Syrian desert. The two supernatural outsiders begin to build a connection with each other just as a burgeoning evil overshadows their new home.
This novel also blends historical fiction and fantasy, drawing on Jewish & Arab mythologies and the American immigrant experience to weave a unique and enchanting tale.
However, this list is just a tiny taste of the exciting possibilities out there for young adult fantasy fans in search of fresh reading inspiration. I’m already planning a second post to include more titles I ran out of time to read, such as Kate Elliot’s Cold Magic or G. Willow Wilson’s Alif The Unseen.
What are some of your favorite adult fiction titles to suggest to fervent YA fantasy fans?
-Kelly Dickinson, currently reading The Golem and the Jinni by Helene Wecker and We Were Liars by E. Lockhart