Book List: Adult SFF books that read like YA

Young adult books are appealing to so many adult readers because of their character-driven, tightly-plotted formats. But there are some great adult writers doing the same thing. Here are some of my favorites.

For further reading, check out: Kate Elliott, Jay Kristoff, Kacen Callender, Alexis Henderson, Madeline Miller, Erin Morgenstern, V.E. Schwab, Tasha Suri, Kat Howard

Sorcerer to the Crown by Zen Cho

Actually one of my favorite books of all time. A grumpy Black sorcerer and a spunky Indian girl with newfound magic must band together to save the magic of England in this Regency fairy story. 

City of Brass by S.A. Chakraborty

When a girl in Cairo encounters a djinn, she never realizes that it might be the secret to her heritage, or that there is a secret city of djinn with its own political machinations and wars.

The Poppy War by R.F. Kuang 

In a Chinese-inspired fantasy world, Rin leaves her southern home to go to the famed military academy. But when war breaks out, she’ll have to come to terms with her own budding magical powers and the atrocities of battle. 

Red Rising by Pierce Brown

I read this as an ARC and the series just keeps getting better. In a universe where people are oppressed by color-coded castes, Darrow is at the lowest level. But with the help of a secret organization, he infiltrates the highest level and goes to their military academy, where he must survive dangerous war games in order to take down the system from within.

Vita Nostra by Marina and Sergey Dyachenko

A girl in Russia is blackmailed into going to magic school–or else her family will be hurt. But as she delves deeper into her own powers, she develops an obsession that could be her making–or undoing. 

Uprooted by Naomi Novik

In a town where girls are taken by a magician as tithe, one girl is ready to change the game. She goes to save her friend and ends up finding a love–and a magic–that she never expected. Beautiful writing, clever plotting, and so swoony.

Magic for Liars by Sarah Gailey

When a magical crime happens, you hire a private investigator who knows the world. The MC isn’t magical, but her sister is a teacher at a prestigious magical academy. When she’s hired to solve a murder, she has no idea what’s in store. 

What other adult SFF has strong YA vibes? 

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