Is This Just Fantasy?: Adult Fantasy Fiction with Teen Appeal

As a librarian, I love providing reader’s advisory help to teens with all different interests and preferences. However, I must admit that I especially love helping a fellow fantasy fan discover a new title or author.  And as many of our library’s most devoted high school readers remain especially loyal to this genre, I have the opportunity to do this on a regular basis.  These voracious readers are constantly looking for new books and they’ve often exhausted the young adult offerings of the moment.  And that’s where having a healthy collection of fantasy published for adult fiction market comes in!
fantasy series adult with teen appeal
Last spring, I shared several adult fantasy authors and titles popular with my students but it seemed about time to provide an update! Here are some adult fiction titles likely to please a variety of eager fantasy readers.
The trend of historical fantasy continues to grow in both young adult and adult fiction.  These first two titles would be excellent recommendations for teens who favor fantasy and historical fiction or Jane Austen novels.

Sorcerer to the Crown by Zen Cho 
(2016 Alex Award nominee)
As the Napoleonic Wars rage abroad, Britain struggles at home as the Royal Society of Unnatural Philosophers grows increasingly dissatisfied with the newly elected Sorcerer Royal, Zacharias Wythe.  Although he was raised and trained by his predecessor Sir Stephen, Zacharias’ dark skin and past as a slave have always barred him from gaining true acceptance in society and the continued magical draught provides the perfect excuse for the Society to oust him.  But when Zacharias journeys north to inspect the border with Fairyland, he meets Prunella Gentleman, an orphan whose remarkable magical ability might be wasted in a world where women are not permitted to practice magic.  Together, Zacharias and Prunella set out on a quest that will alter the state of sorcery in Britain irrevocably.

Shades of Milk & Honey by Mary Robinette Kowal
In another magical alternative version of Regency England, gentlewoman Jane Ellsworth and her sister Melody practice delicate glamour magic and circulate through polite society, all for the purpose of making a good marriage.  But while Melody’s beauty attracts suitors easily, Jane is 28 years old, unmarried, and possibly more talented at glamour than a lady should be.  The arrivals of the wealthy young Mr. Dunkirk and the gruff glamourist Mr. Vincent to the neighborhood set into a series of unforeseen events that will push Jane’s talents and strength to new limits.   The Glamourist Histories series continues in several more novels.
If your readers would prefer a gritty steampunk setting to a Regency drawing room, this next title might be the perfect pick–especially if they like a good murder mystery!
Karen Memory by Elizabeth Bear (2016 Alex Award nominee)
In Rapid City, airships buzz through the air as hopeful miners travel through on their way to Alaskan gold fields and steam-powered robots work the waterfront. And at Madame Damnable’s high quality bordello, a young prostitute named Karen Memery is just trying to make her way through this unforgiving world.  Then one night, a pair of injured and abused young women end up on their doorstep, on the run from brutal gangster and brothel owner Peter Bantle.  In the days that follow, Karen and the other girls at Madame Damnable’s become involved in horrific murder mystery, tracking down a serial killer slaughtering prostitutes around the city.


Jo Walton has become a recent favorite of mine and her books would be great to share with a reader open to complex, thoughtful fantasy and willing sink into a story with a more internal and less action-heavy plot.

Among Others by Jo Walton (2012 Alex Award nominee)

After her abusive and magically ambitious mother’s spells left Morwenna badly injured and her twin sister dead, Mori fled their home in Wales and ends up in boarding school in England.  Lonely, hurt, and grieving, Mori finds comfort in science fiction and fantasy novels and slowly finds friends through a book group at the local library.  But Mori can’t escape her mother forever and her return to Wales must bring an inevitable confrontation.

My Real Children by Jo Walton

The year is 2015 and Patricia Cowan stares out the window from her small room at a nursing home in England. Patricia’s memory is full of confusion and contradictions.  She seems to be remembering two lives–two different paths she might have taken.  Did she marry Mark, have four children, and eventually escape an unhappy marriage to find joy as an older woman?  Or did she fall in love with Bee and raise three children with her while working as a successful travel writer with homes in Britain and Italy?

These titles are rooted in some version of our world but these next few books would be good picks for fans of high fantasy authors like Kristin Cashore, Tamora Pierce, or Malinda Lo.

The Queen of the Tearling by Erika Johansen 
(2015 Alex Award nominee)
 In the far future, following a cataclysmic event, humans have returned to a pseudo-medieval way of life without modern technology but with a buzz of magic underlying the world.  Since her mother the queen’s death, Princess Kelsea Glynn has been raised in hiding, waiting to come of age and return to the Tearling to claim her throne.  Now, the moment has come and Kelsea will need all her bravery and her years of careful study to survive and shape her nation’s precarious future.  This epic adventure continues in two more novels.

The Gracekeepers by Kirsty Logan

In a world divided between landlockers and damplings, loneliness and fear can become a way of life. Haunted by a single horrific mistake, Callanish has exiled herself to a solitary life as a Gracekeeper, living alone on her island station and administers shoreside burials for those who die aboard the many ships criss-crossing the watery globe.  On one such ship, North makes her life as a member of the traveling circus Excalibur, where she and her bear are frequent stars of the show.  When the tides bring the two young women together, they discover an unexpected connection and new vision for the future.

— Kelly Dickinson, currently listening to Sorcerer to the Crown by Zen Cho and reading Peas and Carrots by Tanita Davis

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Kelly Dickinson

I am a librarian at an independent girls' school in the DC-Metro area. I am a compulsive baker, book addict, and genre fiction fan with passion for social justice. Find me on Twitter as @onesmartcupcake.