Six Royally Magical Young Adult Series
Royalty, intrigue, and magically wonderful stories--even if no magic is involved (see number 1 below)!
It's tough to fall in love with the first book in a series and then twiddle thumbs waiting for the next installment, then scramble to try to dive back into the setting and emotional investment while remembering what the heck happened in book one. But each of these series is complete, so if you haven't read them yet, you won't have to wait years for sequels! Yes, that is correct!
Another series that would fit perfectly within this list is the wonderful Winternight trilogy by Katherine Arden. I reviewed the first book, The Bear and the Nightingale, here, and I mentioned the series, which is set in Russia and has a dark fairy-tale tone, in the Greedy Reading List Six Magical Fairy Tales Grown-Ups Will Love.
What other series that have to do with court, queens, and royalty would you include on this list? I've got enough other favorites in this vein to make a second list sometime.
Happy reading, bookworms!
01 The Conquerer’s Saga series by Kiersten White
White's And I Darken, the first book in her Conquerer's Saga series, has cover art that to me evokes fantasy, but the series is actually captivating historical fiction.
I loved the Ottoman Empire setting, the strong female main protagonist, and the complications and sometimes burdens of loyalty, love, and and conflicting allegiances.
The next books in Kiersten White's trilogy are Now I Rise and Bright We Burn.
In Now I Rise, Lada is tough as nails but faulted, and we see her forge her identity more fully through every ruthless or merciful move she makes, buoyed by the loyalty of her dedicated followers.
Bright We Burn is brutal, unrelenting, and fierce. I thought this final book in the trilogy was wonderful. Resolutions were graceful and fitting without being too easy.
I gave each of these books four stars.
02 His Fair Assassin series by Robin LaFevers
Grave Mercy is the first in LaFevers's five-book His Fair Assassin series. Ismae escapes an arranged marriage, arrives at a convent, and is ultimately trained as an assassin and must eliminate her victim within the high court of Brittany. I loved this book and was so engrossed, I could have read it in one fell swoop--except for the fact that it's 500+ pages. It's a little dark, consistently fascinating, sometimes funny, and very satisfying.
This blend of historical fiction, fantasy, and paranormal continues with LaFevers's Dark Triumph, Mortal Heart, Courting Darkness, and Igniting Darkness.
In Dark Triumph, the book's point of view traces events concurrent with those in the first book, so the reader can see how it all overlaps. I was absolutely hooked. Mortal Heart offers a melding of tidier-than-likely resolutions and dramatic romantic situations that I had no argument with--I found it all fabulously satisfying.
I gave each of the first four books in LaFevers's His Fair Assassin series either three and a half (Mortal Heart) or four stars (Grave Mercy and Dark Triumph), and I just recently realized that I initially thought this was a trilogy and haven't finished this series, so I'm eager to read the last two.
03 The Shadow and Bone trilogy by Leigh Bardugo
I loooove me some Leigh Bardugo. Shadow and Bone is my favorite among multiple great Bardugo series, and it's also the title of the first book in Bardugo's trilogy. In book one, Alina, a refugee, uncovers an unlikely depth of powers with the ability to destroy or to heal. She finds that she may be the only hope to save her war-torn country. I love Bardugo's pacing, dialogue, twists and turns, character development, all of it, and I gave this book five stars.
In the second book of the series, Siege and Storm, The Darkness emerges with a destructive and dangerous plan to crush everything Alina has ever known and loved. She is forced to reckon with the potential end to her land, her people, her love--and even her own powers. Bardugo doesn't take the easy way out with the plot, and the dialogue here is funny and smart. She builds on complicating elements, and character development is satisfying but the interpersonal relations are believably tricky at times. I gave it four stars.
In Ruin and Rising, The Darkness is ruling Ravka, and the light and power meant to weaken him seem far away, holding little hope. I adored this final installment in the trilogy and gave it five stars. It's dark and darkly funny, with twists, turns, and satisfying relationship growth.
04 The Folk of the Air series by Holly Black
The Folk of the Air is a young adult fantasy trilogy from Holly Black. The Cruel Prince is the first book, The Wicked King is the second, and the final book, The Queen of Nothing, is currently in "just started" position on my bedside table.
In The Cruel Prince, Jude and her sister are sent to live with the enemy in the High Court of Faerie after their parents are brutally murdered. I was hooked from the first scene. There was some story meandering and I would have liked to see more character development for Taryn, but I enjoyed the forays back and forth from the human world to the faerie, the various things-aren’t-what-they-seem plot elements, and how things weren’t black-and-white.
In The Wicked King, surprising revelations, shifting alliances, opaque political machinations, and enmity between main characters all complicate things for Jude. I loved the intrigue, clever plotting, complicated loyalties and desires, creatures of all kinds, plus: a twist...and double twist! And a cross...and double-cross!
The final book in the series, The Queen of Nothing, catches up with Jude, who has been exiled. A dormant curse and dark power is unleashed, threatening humanity. Jude must determine whether her power to rule or the needs of her people will win out in her loyalties, while also facing confusing and maddening feelings for her former nemesis.
05 The Queen’s Thief series by Megan Whalen Turner
Oh, these books! In The Thief, we're introduced to the irresistible character of Gen. He's plucked from the royal prison to help the king's magus find an ancient treasure. Things aren’t exactly what they seem in this first installment of the intriguingly twisty, turny series.
The Thief is a book that frankly would stand alone beautifully, but instead, luckily for us, it begins Turner's six-book series, which offers wonderfully flawed characters, plot twists and revelations, great banter, and endings you may not predict.
The Queen of Attolia, The King of Attolia, A Conspiracy of Kings (this was possibly my favorite among favorites), Thick As Thieves, and Return of the Thief are the other books in the series.
These six books were published over a period of almost twenty-five years, and the story trail traces the charismatic Gen through what are consistently and, for me, wonderfully unexpected developments related to plot, character arc, point of view, morality, origin stories, conflict, despair, and love.
If you haven't read this series yet, consider me envious. I just adored it and constantly recommend it.
06 The Queen of the Tearling series by Erika Johansen
Exiled Princess Kelsea is trying to reclaim the crown her mother squandered away, while also fighting off the evil powers of The Red Queen in Mortmesne and securing safety for her people in their land, The Tearling. Queen of the Tearling traces the backstories of key characters and offers varied points of view.
Queen of the Tearling was Johansen's debut novel. The Invasion of the Tearling offers more history of the Crossing, which led people to settle in The Tearling. In The Fate of the Tearling, the final book in the trilogy, Johansen offers peeks at her characters' pasts as well as the forces that shaped the Tearling, and she plays with time and reality to create an ending to the trilogy that I didn't anticipate.
In Beneath the Keep, the trilogy's prequel, the kingdom's evils are intensely detailed and extensively explored; this motivates characters to seek change, but also made the book a little difficult for me to read.