Jessica Cluess Recommends 3 Fantasy Books for YA Readers

Jessica Cluess loves to write. Yet she may enjoy reading even more.

After graduating from Northwestern University, the author immediately dove right in as she wrote her first novel. A part of the Kingdom of Fire trilogy, A Shadow Bright and Burning was published in 2016 to critical acclaim. Since then, the Los Angeles resident has penned four YA fantasy novels and a short science fiction story to be released in an anthology this December.

But when she isn’t writing, Jessica Cluess is just as passionate about helping others embrace fantasy. As the genre evolves and grows even more expansive, YA fantasy fiction has also become even more mainstream. Although there are countless sub-genres that blend multiple themes, Jessica Cluess is always eager to promote the work of other female writers. Below, the author shares three more YA fantasy novels written by women.

Shadow and Bone

Leigh Bardugo’s debut entry has spawned an entire literary universe. Shadow and Bone tells the story of the once-renowned kingdom of Ravka, which has now been divided into two by an unbreakable realm of monsters and shadows. The story follows a teenager who soon discovers latent magical abilities and is whisked away to learn how to harness these new skills. This group of warriors, known as the Grisha, are bestowed with special genetic gifts. For this reason, Jessica Cluess recommends this trilogy for any lovers of the superhero genre, specifically the X-Men. Originally published in 2012, the Shadow and Bone storyline has grown to include seven novels, two collections of short stories, and a highly-anticipated Netflix adaptation.

The Gilded Ones

“Outcasts by blood. Warriors by choice.” The tagline alone offers a perfect description. Already perceived as different because of her unnatural intuition, a teenager discovers her blood runs gold during a traditional ceremony. As a sign of “impurity” amongst her tribe, young Deka is left with a choice: stay and be labeled as an outsider or leave and join a fight to protect the empire. The newest entry on this list, The Gilded Ones was released in early 2021 to immediate fanfare.

Children of Blood and Bone

Magic has disappeared. The kingdom of Orïsha was once beaming with magic until a ruthless dictator became determined to eradicate magic for good. After watching this king murder her own mother and other maji, Zélie embarks on a quest to restore magic to the land. Yet, her vengeance and hatred may be burning too bright. Jessica Cluess lauds Children of Blood and Bone for its tale of a young girl’s journey of self-realization as she learns to control her powers and her emotions. And critics agree. Upon it’s release in 2018, it was immediately featured on most publications’ bestseller lists. TIME has even named it one of the “Top 100 Best Fantasy Books of All Time.”