Fantasy is a big genre and it can be pretty intimidating to get into, so I thought it would be helpful to talk about easy to digest young adult fantasy!
By “easy to digest” I mean worlds that are easy to understand, which doesn’t inherently mean not complex but more like clearly defined. This usually leans towards more adventure-based fantasy than political-based and worlds with intricately described magic systems. I also aimed for shorter books, seeing as that’s one of the more daunting parts of fantasy, so most of these books hover around the 400-page mark.
Without further ado, let’s get into the list!
Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo
The conversation that gave me this idea started with me recommending The Grisha Trilogy as easy to read YA fantasy, so I had to include it on this list. I know most people prefer Six of Crows, however, I’m not one of such people and I think Bardugo’s original series is more easy to grasp if you’re starting out. The politics of Ravka are fairly straight forward, and the magic system is much more talked about in this book than in the duology.
Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi
The magic system of Orïsha is complex and detailed, probably the most detailed on this list, but Adeyemi does an excellent job of explaining it without making it feel like an info dump. The writing is also very accessible, it’s crisp and strong and it doesn’t feel like it’s dragging at all.
An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir
This is probably one of the most hyped YA fantasy series out there, and it very much deserves it. Tahir took inspiration from Ancient Rome, but there’s a myriad of other elements that make this book rich in detail and well constructed, and she still manages to make it an accessible story.
Of Fire and Stars by Audrey Coulthurst
This is one of the quieter books on this list and I do think that helps with it’s how easy to read it is. Coulthurst also weaves a mystery into the plot and that, along with the well explained and easily understandable magic system make this a good first foray into YA fantasy. Plus, the sequel comes out later this year!
Runebinder by Alex R Kahler
Although this book also has some dystopia elements, I do think the fantasy aspects shine through a considerable amount and for that reason I’m adding it to this list. The dystopia of the world takes a backseat to the magical powers and plot that blend together to make an exciting story that’s also fairly unique.
Sea of Shadows by Kelley Armstrong
Armstrong is actually the author that got me into the broader YA category after Twilightgot me into reading, but her original YA trilogy is urban fantasy, and that’s a whole separate post.
I really liked the story of Sea of Shadows it’s interesting and entertaining and the sister relationship in it is incredible. I think the magic has some pretty unique bits in it as well and I think the actual world, was fun to read about, if not wholly original in construction.
Forest of a Thousand Lanterns by Julie C. Dao
This is the only real political-esque fantasy on this list, and even then I’m not wholly sure it counts. Watching Xifeng weave her way through the court was interesting, but only a piece of the overall story. However, it still falls firmly in the “easy to digest” category, with decadent writing and a delightful plot that bring a fresh twist to a villain origin story.
Dread Nation by Justina Ireland
I feel like zombies can fall in either a fantasy or science fiction direction, depending on a multitude of factors, and in my opinion, the zombies of Dread Nation are definitely more fantasy than sci-fi. This isn’t second-world fantasy, but it is set during the Reconstruction Era in America so it still feels unfamiliar and the fast pace of book lends itself to its easy readability.
Caraval by Stephanie Garber
Caraval is another book with a mystery at its core and I really do think that makes changes the way it’s read. On top of that, the writing is easy to comprehend and the world, the part of it we see at least, is fairly well explained and fleshed out.
Reign of the Fallen by Sarah Glenn Marsh
I love necromancers, so when I heard Reign of the Fallen was about a bisexual necromancer I jumped at the chance. What I didn’t expect was a unique magic system and intriguing squad dynamics with a gut-wrenching look at the way people handle grief. This book isn’t easy to read in the sense of being easy to process, but it is easy to read in the sense of being well written and engaging.