Top 10 YA Fantasy Books of 2018

2018 was a fantastic fantasy year: from breathtaking debuts from authors like Somaiya Daud (Mirage) to heart-pounding series enders (Kingdom of Ash, we’re all looking at you!), it was filled with action and adventure and fun.

10. Catwoman: Soulstealer by Sarah J. Maas

Sarah J. Maas had a ridiculously busy year. Beginning with A Court of Frost and Starlight in May and ending with Kingdom of Ash in October, she took a break from her highly-developed fantasy series to release Catwoman: Soulstealer, the third of four DC Icons books as she took on a role that Leigh Bardugo, Marie Lu, and Matt de la Peña also tackled. I found Catwoman to be really fun and much more relaxed than her other series. It’s a great break book: you can read it to catch your breath from other series-enders that happened this year.

9. Furyborn by Claire Legrand

The first in the Empirium trilogy, Furyborn follows Rielle and Eliana, the former a queen and the latter a bounty hunter, who live centuries apart. I knew Legrand from The Cavendish Home for Boys and Girls, which I read in 2012, so I was really excited to see she had released a YA novel. It didn’t disappoint, but though the storyline was creative and something I had never read before, I found the romance aspect forced and not at all engaging. However, it was easy to ignore, and I loved to see how two girls a millennia apart could be cosmically connected.

8. Ash Princess by Laura Sebastian

Ash Princess comes from debut novelist Laura Sebastian. It follows Theo, the princess of a country stolen by the Kaiser (essentially a king). She wears the crown title of Ash Princess in shame, until she is forced to do the unthinkable, after which she decides to rebel. The idea is great, but it took me quite some time to get through it. I picked it up before YALLFest and realized that it gives off intense Red Queen vibes, so I was immediately hooked.

7. War Storm by Victoria Aveyard

It was hard to come up with a review for this: I loved the series, but I was mildly disappointed with the ending, and I had hoped to put this farther up the list! When I started shipping Mare and Cal, I really started to ship them, and their relationship in the end was a let-down. However, the entire book is a risk that Aveyard managed to pull off. I especially loved how much Mare and Evangeline’s relationship has shifted from Red Queen.

6. The Cruel Prince by Holly Black

I heard so many positive things about this book, and almost every single one is true. I cannot wait for The Wicked King’s release; Black did an amazing job mixing the world we know with one we don’t. I appreciate when writers take the time to have characters make choices that are inexcusable and/or are really controversial because it really represents how life actually is. I haven’t read it since it’s release in January, an entire year ago, but I think it’s safe to say that I love love love Prince Cardan. And, of course, the thousands of gut-wrenching plot twists. :)

5. Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi

The culture and mythology in this book was just *wow*. Adeyemi’s world is so new, beautiful, and colorful that it’s almost difficult to focus on the storyline—not that I’m complaining! The main character Zelie is realistic but serious, and the storyline, about restoring a traditional magic to a light-less empire is really interesting. Having the POV switch back and forth between characters, especially characters on opposing sides, is so refreshing and lets you decide for yourself which character holds the values you do. With background from West Africa, this book is a twist on the traditional magic and fantasy world.

4. The Fate’s Divide by Veronica Roth

First things first: I LOVED Carve the Mark. I went to see Roth when she came for the release tour in 2017, and immediately found it to be more engaging and creative than Divergent. The Fate’s Divide is the second and final book. If she had tried to make it a trilogy, it would not have worked, so I loved that she only wrote two books, which is daring. The duology as a whole is so so so creative and nothing like I’ve ever read before—to be in space but also have the flexibility to give really in-depth descriptions of culture and continents is very impressive.

3. Neverworld Wake by Marisha Pessl

I know, I know, it’s not a fantasy novel. However, if it was a fantasy novel, it would probably be #1. It was so incredibly cool to read. It’s spooky and twisted and different and though it’s more of an adaptation of an idea than an original idea (for example, Lauren Oliver’s Before I Fall), I’ve never read a contemporary with such a controversial main character—she’s desperate to live but also can’t bear to see her friends die. It was so fantastic! *round of applause*

2. Kingdom of Ash by Sarah J. Maas

I think it’s safe to say that this book killed me. What can I say? Sarah finished her series that she’s been working on for 16 years! How could this book be anything less than sob-worthy? But in all seriousness, this 992-page monster of a book was so engaging. My heart pounded. I’m pretty sure I stopped breathing a few times. Aelin, Rowan, Lysandra, Aedion, Dorian, Manon, Lorcan, Elide, Chaol, Yrene, Nesryn…they all had a shot at a POV, meaning that there was never a moment where it was quiet and peaceful. It was exactly the right length and I can’t imagine a better way to end a series. Even though I can’t say it’s better than Heir of Fire, I can say that it’s a close second. Yay, Sarah!

1. The Queen’s Rising by Rebecca Ross

I can’t believe that my #1 book of 2018 was a debut! When I went to see Victoria Aveyard in May to get War Storm, Rebecca Ross was with her, and let me tell you that I bought that book faster than you can say passion (if you read it, you’ll get the reference). So much thought, research, and time had to go into this book. It follows Brienna, the sixth girl attempting to find her passion at Magnolia House, a renowned place of study. There are five passions—art, wit, knowledge, dramatics, and music—and each require years of training. However, to be a successful passion, you must be chosen by a patron. Brienna, due to both her lack of training and her interest in all five passions, is not. The Queen’s Rising tells the story of Brienna as she shifts from the embarrassment of not being chosen to her path as a spy for the true queen of Maevana. It’s a story of vengeance, discovery, and betrayal inspired by Renaissance France. Rebecca Ross is truly a master of words. The storyline is fresh, the descriptions are so beautiful, and if I can mention social media, her Instagram is the aesthetic everyone should be going for.

Here's to 2019: It will certainly be a challenge for the year to bring as many books as we had in 2018. Keep reading! There's so many incredible worlds to discover if you only take the time to do so.

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