The Iron Trial by Holly Black abd Cassandra Clare (2014)

iron trialThis dark story about three kids in a magic school will appeal to those looking for Harry Potter readalikes.

Recommended grade level: 4-7

Pages:  295 (for ISBN 978054552225)

Genre(s) and keywords: fantasy, adventure

Tone/Style: dark, mysterious, magical

Pace: moderate to fast

Topics: dark magic, magic schools

Themes: destiny, evil, friendship

Summary: Most kids would do anything to pass the Iron Trial. Not Callum Hunt. He wants to fail. All his life, Call has been warned by his father to stay away from magic. If he succeeds at the Iron Trial and is admitted into the Magisterium, he is sure it can only mean bad things for him. So he tries his best to do his worst – and fails at failing. Now the Magisterium awaits him — a place that’s both sensational and sinister, with dark ties to his past and a twisty path to his future. The Iron Trial is just the beginning, for the biggest test is still to come… Continue reading

The Last Dragonslayer by Jasper Fforde (2012)

dragonslayerFantasy meets weird British humor in the first YA offering by a well-loved adult author.

Recommended grade level: 6 and up

Pages:  287 (for ISBN 9780547738475)

Genre(s) and keywords: fantasy, humor, British

Tone/Style: quirky

Pace: moderate

Topics: magic, dragons

Themes: change, responsibility

Summary: In the good old days, magic was indispensable. But now magic is fading: Drain cleaner is cheaper than a spell, and magic carpets are used for pizza delivery. Fifteen-year-old Jennifer Strange runs Kazam, an employment agency for magicians—but it’s hard to stay in business when magic is drying up. And then the visions start, predicting the death of the world’s last dragon at the hands of an unnamed Dragonslayer. If the visions are true, everything will change for Kazam—and for Jennifer. (Source)

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The Rithmatist by Brandon Sanderson (2013)

rithChalk monsters, drawings that come alive, and a protagonist who failed to be “chosen” make this a unique foray into steampunk fantasy.

Recommended grade level: 6 and up

Pages:  378 (for ISBN 9780765320322)

Genre(s) and keywords: fantasy

Tone/Style: steampunk, mysterious

Pace: leisurely to moderate

Topics: monsters, magic, magic schools, alternate reality

Themes: missed opportunities, dreams, talent, disappointment

Summary: More than anything, Joel wants to be a Rithmatist. Chosen by the Master in a mysterious inception ceremony, Rithmatists have the power to infuse life into two-dimensional figures known as Chalklings. Rithmatists are humanity’s only defense against the Wild Chalklings—merciless creatures that leave mangled corpses in their wake. Having nearly overrun the territory of Nebrask, the Wild Chalklings now threaten all of the American Isles.

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The Reader by Traci Chee (2016)

Beautiful language and a complex story woven of many threads mark this book designed for book lovers.

Recommended grade level: 8 and up

Pages:   442 (for ISBN 9780399176777)

Genre(s) and keywords: fantasy, diverse

Tone/Style: lyrical

Pace: leisurely

Topics: books, pirates, past trauma, fugitives, magic

Themes: reading, friendship

Summary: A stunning debut set in a world where reading is unheard-of, perfect for fans of Inkheart and Shadow and Bone.

Sefia knows what it means to survive. After her father is brutally murdered, she flees into the wilderness with her aunt Nin, who teaches her to hunt, track, and steal. But when Nin is kidnapped, leaving Sefia completely alone, none of her survival skills can help her discover where Nin’s been taken, or if she’s even alive. The only clue to both her aunt’s disappearance and her father’s murder is the odd rectangular object her father left behind, an object she comes to realize is a book—a marvelous item unheard of in her otherwise illiterate society. With the help of this book, and the aid of a mysterious stranger with dark secrets of his own, Sefia sets out to rescue her aunt and find out what really happened the day her father was killed—and punish the people responsible.

 

With overlapping stories of swashbuckling pirates and merciless assassins, The Reader is a brilliantly told adventure from an extraordinary new talent. (Source)

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Heartless by Marissa Meyer (2016)

heartlessA dark, imaginative, and romantic Alice in Wonderland prequel.

Recommended grade level: 7 and up

Pages:   453 (for ISBN 9781250044655)

Genre(s) and keywords: romance, fantasy, retellings

Tone/Style: dark, romantic

Pace: leisurely to moderate

Topics: Alice in Wonderland, magic, baking, royalty, nobility, unwanted marriages, Victorian, illicit romance, fairy tales (Alice in Wonderland isn’t quite a fairy tale, but it appeals to the same crowd so I’m sticking the tag in here.)

Themes: romantic love, societal roles, duty, falls from grace

Summary: Long before she was the terror of Wonderland — the infamous Queen of Hearts — she was just a girl who wanted to fall in love.

Catherine may be one of the most desired girls in Wonderland, and a favorite of the yet-unmarried King of Hearts, but her interests lie elsewhere. A talented baker, all she wants is to open a shop with her best friend and supply the Kingdom of Hearts with delectable pastries and confections. But according to her mother, such a goal is unthinkable for the young woman who could be the next Queen.

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The Novice by Taran Matharu (2015)

noviceSolid fantasy of the classic variety, heavy on both action and politics.

Recommended grade level: 6 and up

Pages:   355 (for ISBN 9781250067128)

Genre(s) and keywords: fantasy

Tone/Style: epic

Pace: moderate

Topics: race relations, women’s rights, class struggle, war, demons, magic, magic schools

Themes: inequality, social justice, perseverance, friendship

Summary: Fletcher is working as a blacksmith’s apprentice when he discovers he has the rare ability to summon demons from another world. Chased from his village for a crime he did not commit, Fletcher must travel with his demon, Ignatius, to an academy for adepts, where the gifted are taught the art of summoning. Continue reading

Mark of the Thief by Jennifer A. Nielsen (2015)

markA fantasy adventure set in the ancient Roman Empire.

Recommended grade level: 5 and up

Pages:   352 (for ISBN 9780545561549)

Genre(s) and keywords: fantasy, adventure

Tone/Style: conversational, personal

Pace: moderate

Topics: magical objects, magical powers, slaves, gods, ancient Rome

Themes: family, loyalty, freedom, power

Summary: When Nic, a slave in the mines outside of Rome, is forced to enter a sealed cavern containing the lost treasures of Julius Caesar, he finds much more than gold and gemstones: He discovers an ancient bulla, an amulet that belonged to the great Caesar and is filled with a magic once reserved for the Gods — magic some Romans would kill for. Continue reading