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I never saw myself as a sci-fi or fantasy reader, not until a few years ago. When my son was born I started reading comics which led to reading Star Wars books and thanks to fellow Rioters I discovered exploring SFF books. I realized that I had mostly been basing this on my assumption that I wasn’t a fan of old-school SFF. What I loved was Octavia E. Butler’s prescient science fiction and NK Jemisin’s Afrofuturism; I loved the way Rena Rossner incorporated Jewish folklore and history into her fantasy and how Tracy Deonn wove rootcraft magic with the Arthurian fantasy retelling.
In case you haven’t noticed, there have been some really amazing YA and intermediate level fantasy books published lately. These books are intelligent, engaging, varied and entertaining, with characters you just want to spend time with. Let’s be honest: the last few years have not been… ideal. For me, reading is a stress reliever, but also a way out. And if that escape comes with some magic, adventure, and fun, all the better – especially if it’s a series I can look forward to reading the next book and exploring further.
I’ve selected 10 mid-range fantasy series that I think are a great place to start if you’re interested in exploring the genre, and I’ll tell you a little bit about the first book of each series. Even if you’re not new to this genre, these are series that I think will pique a reader’s interest and keep you reading.
Let’s take a look!
Amira & Hamza by Samira Ahmed
Start with: Amira & Hamza: The War to Save the Worlds
This book came in a book box that I received and I’m so glad it did – Amira and Hamza are a great sibling team with just the right amount of tween-tude. Ahmed weaves Islamic legends and history into this fast-paced tale of a museum visit gone awry. During a super blue lunar eclipse, her family goes to a special exhibition and Hamza unknowingly sets off a chain of events that leads the siblings to encounter Djinn. The siblings have been tasked with saving the world while everyone else is under a sleeping spell, and what follows is an adventure they’ll never forget – if they manage to save the world and get back to their family!
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Maya and the Darkness Rising by Rena Barron
Start with: Maya and the Darkness Rising
Warning: Do not start this book before bed as you may be staying up way too late to read it like I did (it was totally worth it though!). When Maya starts noticing strange things like the disappearing of colors or time freezing or the strange shadow man in her dreams, her friends ignore this and she brushes it off by reading too many of their stories. But when her papa disappears, she suddenly finds herself part of a whole new world of orishas and magic – and the human world is in danger of being destroyed by the Lord of Shadows. Can Maya help bring papa home and save the human world?
Dactyl Hill Squad by Daniel Jose Older
Start with Dactyl Hill Squad
Set in 1863 New York, this alternate historical fantasy series sees dinosaurs roaming New York while the South is in Civil War with armies using their own dinosaurs. Magdalys and her friends from the Colored Orphan Asylum are on a field trip, and when the draft riots take place, some of her classmates are kidnapped. She and her friends find solace in the Dactyl Hill neighborhood of Brooklyn, a black and brown independent community. Read the book to find out her plans to rescue her classmates!
The Summoners by Brian Anderson
Start with: The Conjurers: Rise of the Shadow
Alex and Emma are siblings and after their parents disappear they (and Emma’s pet rabbit Pimawa) are sent to live with Uncle Mordo. When flying skeletons attack their home, they escape – Pimawa leads them. The rabbit takes them to a magical land called the Conjurian where it can speak. But the country is in trouble and a battle for control of all magic is underway. Is there anything Alex and Emma can do to help?
City of Ghosts by Victoria Schwab
Start with: City of Ghosts
Since her drowning accident, Cass has been able to enter the spirit world. When her parents start a TV show about the most haunted places in the world, they move to Scotland, which is full of haunted places and ghosts. When she meets a girl who shares her supernatural abilities, she realizes how much she doesn’t know – but needs to learn fast. This spooky series is perfect for older, middle-class readers.
Plotting the Stars by Michelle A. Barry
Start with: Plotting the Stars 1: Moongarden
A new, futuristic retelling of The Secret Garden, this book is set in a world where centuries ago the plants of the earth became deadly and humans flew into space to survive. Myra attends a top school on the moon and the pressure mounts. Her tattoos, meant to signal her number magic, aren’t developing, and she’s afraid she doesn’t have magic. When she finds a secret laboratory and a secret garden full of dangerous plants, she begins to learn more about them – and discovers that she might have magic after all. The next book in this series hasn’t been announced yet, so stay tuned!
The Tea Dragon Society by K. O’Neill
Start with: The Tea Dragon Society
If you’re looking for a gentle, beautiful story, look no further. After Greta finds a lost tea dragon in the marketplace, Greta, an apprentice blacksmith, learns the art of tea dragon husbandry. Over time, she realizes that caring for a tea dragon isn’t just beneficial for the tea dragon; it can also have a positive impact on their lives. It is a delightful book that is perfect and comforting for all ages.
Cece Rios by Kaela Rivera
Start with: Cece Rios and the Desert of Souls
Cece and her family live in Tierra del Sol, and during the Criatura months, ghosts roam the desert and threaten humanity – unless Cece believes there’s anything left to them, to everyone’s horror. In their community, only Brujas interact with Criatrua, and Brujeria is a crime. But when her sister Juana is kidnapped by a criatura, Cece decides to become a bruja and bring Juana home at any cost – all unbeknownst to her family.
Marvelerverses by Dhonielle Clayton
Start with: The Marvellers
A magic school in the sky? Diverse students and magical creatures? Sign me up! Ella is the first Summoner to attend the Arcanum Training Institute, where Marvellers from around the world practice their cultural arts. She has a rough start when some students don’t trust her magic, but soon she finds her friends. After a dangerous criminal escapes from prison – allegedly with the help of a summoner – tensions resurface at school and Ella decides to clear her family name and find out who is really behind it.
The Gifted Clans by Graci Kim
Start with: The Last Fallen Star
Riley welcomes her sister Hattie into the Gom clan, a line of Korean healing witches. Though she would like to be just like her sister, Riley is a saram, or someone who has no magic. Adopted, she sometimes feels like she doesn’t quite fit into her family, let alone the larger magical community. When Hattie comes up with the idea of casting a spell to share her magic with Riley, they don’t expect what happens and it’s up to Riley to save Hattie’s life.
Which ones will you read first?
If you want even more Intermediate Fantasy, check out this post on 20 Best Intermediate Fantasy Books, and if Sci-Fi is your thing, be sure to read this post on Intermediate Sci-Fi Books.