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I Ranked Every YA Fantasy I Read in 2023

1. One Dark Window by Rachel Gilig (5⭐️)
This novel follows Elspeth who has a monster known as the Nightmare living inside her head. She teams up with the king’s nephew, Ravyn, to cure the kingdom of the dark magic infecting it. This is an exceptional debut. The characters are well written, the story is compelling, the setting is atmospheric, and the world building is strong. The cliffhanger ending is the final bit that really cinched its spot as my #1.
2. Never a Hero by Vanessa Len (5⭐️)
This is the second book in the Only a Monster trilogy which is about a girl, Joan, who finds out that she is a human-monster hybrid. In this universe, monsters have the ability to time travel. The first 175 or so pages of this book are quite similar in plot to the first book but after that it diverges. This sequel answers all the questions the first book poses. It also raises the stakes and leaves off on a cliffhanger that promises a sure to be thrilling third and final book.
3. The Girl Who Fell Beneath the Sea by Axie Oh (4.75⭐️)
This book is about a world in which a Sea God has cursed his people with deadly storms. Due to this the people sacrifice girls to be his bride to appease him. Mina takes another girl’s place and finds herself in the Spirit Realm. This book features an enchanting world to get lost in and lovable characters. Many have likened it to Spirited Away and I agree with those comparisons.
4. The Caraval Trilogy by Stephanie Garber (4.08⭐️ avg.)
This trilogy (consisting of Caraval, Legendary, and Finale) follows two sisters, Scarlett and Donatella ‘Tella’. In the first book the sisters take part in an annual, extravagant but dangerous game known as Caraval. This is a series that gets progressively better with each book. Scarlett is the more boring of the sibling duo whereas Tella shines. There is lots of sisterhood and magic in this series and, most of all, romance. Even if you aren’t hooked by the first book I urge you to give the second book a chance.
5. Lost in the Never Woods by Aiden Thomas (4⭐️)
This is a Peter Pan retelling and features Wendy and Peter teaming up to take down Peter’s shadow. This novel is DARK so be warned about that going in. It lends itself perfectly for the fall time as it’s slow, gloomy, and ominous. There is a romance between Wendy and Peter but it’s odd and quite out of place in the plot.
6. A Curse for True Love by Stephanie Garber (4⭐️)
This is the finale of the Once Upon a Broken Heart trilogy (the first two books are Once Upon a Broken Heart and The Ballad of Never After). The series follows a human girl named Evangeline who believes in true love. She strikes a deal with an immortal Fate (Jacks) with a deadly kiss. This series is a spin-off of the Caraval trilogy. This series is like stepping into a frosty fairy tale and Evangeline reminds me of a Disney princess. This is the series' weakest installment, but I think fans will be satisfied with Evangeline and Jacks’ ending.
7. The Poison Season by Mara Rutherford (4⭐️)
This novel takes place on an island of magical people protected from outsiders. Islander Leelo breaks the island's rules by saving a stranger, Jaren’s, life. This book reminded me a lot of Lois Lowry’s The Giver with both Leelo and Jonas having similar character growth and the plot featuring an unraveling of a ‘perfect’ world. This novel’s insular world and simple world building make it ideal for fantasy newbies.
8. Divine Rivals by Rebecca Ross (3.75⭐️)
Iris and Roman are journalists who travel to the front of a war fought between gods. This novel’s atmosphere is impeccable. It’s somber and grey with tinges of hope to be found in the love story at the book’s heart. This is one of the best enemies to lovers romances I’ve read. There’s a legitimate reason for their rivalry but there’s also a foundation of admiration. I found the world building quite strange as it’s set in a fantasy world but there is modern technology. It’s unlike anything else Ross has written.
9. Sofi and the Bone Song by Adrienne Tooley (3.75⭐️)
This novel follows Sofi who lives in a world where only five musicians (Musiks) in the kingdom are allowed to compose and perform original music. She goes up against her rival, Lara, to take her father’s place as the next Musik. This is a character driven story (as opposed to being plot driven). It’s a standalone with an LGBT+ romance. The book’s greatest strength is its world building while its greatest weakness is its slow pacing.
10. Belladonna by Adalyn Grace (3.75⭐️)
This is a fantasy, enemies to lovers romance and follows Signa who can see Death. She forms and alliance with him to solve her new guardian’s murder. This book reminded me of A Series of Unfortunate Events and Tricia Levenseller’s The Shadow King. This could be a good transition for fantasy readers who want to explore mystery novels.
11. The Shadow of the Fox Trilogy by Julie Kagawa (3.58⭐️ avg.)
This series (consisting of Shadow of the Fox, Soul of the Sword, and Night of the Dragon) follows half-kitsune Yumeko and Tatsumi, a samurai in possession of a demon possessed sword. They're protecting the Dragon Scroll which is capable of granting any mortal’s wish. This series has a great start, a solid middle, and a disappointing finale that really brought down its rating. The book features found family and lots and lots of Japanese mythology which are its strongest aspects. The writing is a little bit too much tell and not enough show.
Blog Review: Coming Soon!
11. The Prison Healer by Lynette Noni (2.75)
This novel is about Kiva who is a healer imprisoned in a death prison. She is tasked with keeping the Rebel Queen alive after she is captured and taking her place in a series of elemental challenges known as the Trial by Ordeal. The characters were undoubtedly endearing and the best part of this novel. Sadly, the novel’s plot feels recycled and it fails to standout from other books in its genre.
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