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Last week I shared a post featuring 5 amazing middle-grade novels featuring strong female characters. This week, as promised, I have put together a collection of 10 of our very favorite middle-grade FANTASY books with strong, clever, and fierce young women! We have established that I love middle-grade books with my whole heart. But, if I had to pick just one type of middle-grade books…middle-grade fantasy would win the prize! These 10 books represent our favorite read-alouds, my favorite personal reads, and some of my kids favorite personal reads. Let’s check them out!
Amari and the Night Brothers
Up first has to be my girl Amari. We LOVED this book. This was a read-aloud and was loved by all 4 of us. Amari and the Night Brothers is written by B.B. Alston and is action packed and full of all things fantasy. From fairies to magicians and everything in between. Amari is the ultimate fierce, strong, and brave character. She is the underdog, up against kids who have known magic their entire lives. She feels so alone in this world that is brand new to her…but she has to stay strong or risk never finding out what happened to her brother!
Amari Peters has never stopped believing her missing brother, Quinton, is alive. Not even when the police told her otherwise, or when she got in trouble for standing up to bullies who said he was gone for good.
So when she finds a ticking briefcase in his closet, containing a nomination for a summer tryout at the Bureau of Supernatural Affairs, she’s certain the secretive organization holds the key to locating Quinton—if only she can wrap her head around the idea of magicians, fairies, aliens, and other supernatural creatures all being real.
Now she must compete for a spot against kids who’ve known about magic their whole lives. No matter how hard she tries, Amari can’t seem to escape their intense doubt and scrutiny—especially once her supernaturally enhanced talent is deemed “illegal.” With an evil magician threatening the supernatural world, and her own classmates thinking she’s an enemy, Amari has never felt more alone. But if she doesn’t stick it out and pass the tryouts, she may never find out what happened to Quinton.
Cece Rios and the Desert of Souls
Cece Rios and the Desert of Souls was one of our top read-alouds from last year. I am so excited for the sequel. It is jam packed with Mexican folklore, magic, and sisterly love. This was a definite page-turner. We loved how determined and courageous Cece was. Author Kaela Rivera is such a master storyteller. She created a loving and fierce character in Cece. We felt fully immersed in the folklore of the story!
Living in the remote town of Tierra del Sol is dangerous, especially in the criatura months, when powerful spirits roam the desert and threaten humankind. But Cecelia Rios has always believed there was more to the criaturas, much to her family’s disapproval. After all, only brujas—humans who capture and control criaturas—consort with the spirits, and brujeria is a terrible crime.
When her older sister, Juana, is kidnapped by El Sombrerón, a powerful dark criatura, Cece is determined to bring Juana back. To get into Devil’s Alley, though, she’ll have to become a bruja herself—while hiding her quest from her parents, her town, and the other brujas. Thankfully, the legendary criatura Coyote has a soft spot for humans and agrees to help her on her journey.
With him at her side, Cece sets out to reunite her family—and maybe even change what it means to be a bruja along the way.
The Last Shadow Warrior
If you have fans of Norse Mythology, the The Last Shadow Warrior is for you. We LOVED this book. Author Sam Subity packed the pages not only with awesome Norse Mythology, but non-stop humor. Abby is such an incredibly strong and fierce character…she does, after all, come from a long line of Viking Warriors. The perfect combination of action, humor, mythology, and bravery. If you have a Percy Jackson fan…you are going to want to check out The Last Shadow Warrior.
Twelve-year-old Abby Beckett is proud to come from a long line of elite Viking warriors known as the Aesir. She’s spent her entire life training to hunt the horrific creatures known as Grendels–the ancient foe of the Aesir–just like her mother did before she died. But there’s just one, small problem: No one has seen a Grendel in centuries, and the Viking Council wants to disband the Aesir . . . forever.
When her father is injured in an attack that leaves him in a coma, Abby is forced to take refuge at Vale Hall, a mysterious school in Minnesota where nothing is quite as it seems. She soon discovers the tables have turned and a Grendel is hunting her, but when she tries to alert the Viking Council, they accuse her of making up stories for attention . . . just like her mother did.
Desperate to protect her father and clear her mother’s name, Abby goes on a dangerous quest to discover the truth–a journey that brings her face-to-face with some unlikely foes, including a Ping-Pong-playing sea monster with a wicked backhand, and a dark Valkyrie with a fondness for bingo. Abby quickly realizes that someone at the school is trying to stop her progress and destroy the Aesir for good. And only she can unravel the sinister plot before it’s too late.
The Wizards of Once
The Wizards of Once has been a favorite of ours since it was included in our Owl Crate Jr box a few years ago. Written by the author of the How to Train Your Dragon series, Cressida Cowell. Young Wish is such a fiery and brave character! This is such a fun and hilarious book packed with some of the most endearing, clever, and hysterical characters. This was an enormously fun book to read aloud…especially since I tend to fully embrace the different voices! If you aren’t oen who enjoys busting into voices when reading, I highly recommend the audio book…it is narrated by the AMAZING David Tennant and he KILLS IT! Just a magical and enchanting series!
Once there were Wizards, who were Magic, and Warriors, who were not. But Xar, son of the King of Wizards, can’t cast a single spell. And Wish, daughter of the Warrior Queen, has a banned magical object of her own. When they collide in the wildwood, on the trail of a deadly witch, it’s the start of a grand adventure that just might change the fabric of their worlds.
Pahua and the Soul Stealer
Next up we have Pahua and the Soul Stealer. This is not a book that I have read yet…BUT…it comes highly recommended by my daughters! Pahua is a young Hmong girl who is the perfect balance of kind, brave, and delightfully weird. Packed with Southeast Asian Mythology, Pahua and the Soul Stealer by Lori M. Lee is an action packed, funny, and fast-paced book your kids will love!
Pahua Moua has a bit of a reputation for being a weirdo. A lonely eleven-year-old Hmong girl with the unique ability to see spirits, she spends her summer days babysitting her little brother and playing with her best friend, a cat spirit no one else can see.
One day Pahua accidentally untethers an angry spirit from the haunted bridge in her neighborhood–whoops. When her brother suddenly falls sick and can’t be awoken, Pahua fears that the bridge spirit has stolen his soul. She returns to the scene of the crime with her aunt’s old shaman tools, hoping to confront the spirit and demand her brother’s return. Instead, she summons a demon.
Thankfully, a warrior shaman with a bit of an attitude problem shows up at the last minute and saves her butt. With the help of this guide, Pahua will have to find her way through the spirit worlds and rescue her brother’s soul before it’s too late. Little does she know she’ll have her own discoveries to make along the way. . . .
Paola Santiago and the River of Tears
Based on the Mexican legend of La LLorona, Paola Santiago and the River of Tears is such an exciting and creative book! I love that our main character Paola is a science loving space nerd! She is a lover of facts and logic and finds herself having to step outside her comfort zone and embrace the idea of myths and legends. Author Tehlor Kay Mejia has perfectly woven a tale of family and epic quest!
Space-obsessed 12-year-old Paola Santiago and her two best friends, Emma and Dante, know the rule: Stay away from the river. It’s all they’ve heard since a schoolmate of theirs drowned a year ago. Pao is embarrassed to admit that she has been told to stay away for even longer than that, because her mother is constantly warning her about La Llorona, the wailing ghost woman who wanders the banks of the Gila at night, looking for young people to drag into its murky depths.
Hating her mother’s humiliating superstitions and knowing that she and her friends would never venture into the water, Pao organizes a meet-up to test out her new telescope near the Gila, since it’s the best stargazing spot. But when Emma never arrives and Pao sees a shadowy figure in the reeds, it seems like maybe her mom was right. . . .
Pao has always relied on hard science to make sense of the world, but to find her friend she will have to enter the world of her nightmares, which includes unnatural mist, mind-bending monsters, and relentless spirits controlled by a terrifying force that defies both logic and legend.
Nevermoor: The Trials of Morrigan Crow
We loved Morrigan Crow. What a witty and brave young girl! Nevermoor: The Trials of Morrigan Crow was so full of magic and adventure…not to mention fun and lovable characters. Author Jessica Townsend catapults readers into this imaginative world full of magic, imagination, and plot twists. This was such a fun read-aloud that we all loved. Can’t wait to read the rest of the series.
Morrigan Crow is cursed. Having been born on Eventide, the unluckiest day for any child to be born, she’s blamed for all local misfortunes, from hailstorms to heart attacks–and, worst of all, the curse means that Morrigan is doomed to die at midnight on her eleventh birthday.
But as Morrigan awaits her fate, a strange and remarkable man named Jupiter North appears. Chased by black-smoke hounds and shadowy hunters on horseback, he whisks her away into the safety of a secret, magical city called Nevermoor.
It’s then that Morrigan discovers Jupiter has chosen her to contend for a place in the city’s most prestigious organization: the Wundrous Society. In order to join, she must compete in four difficult and dangerous trials against hundreds of other children, each with an extraordinary talent that sets them apart–an extraordinary talent that Morrigan insists she does not have. To stay in the safety of Nevermoor for good, Morrigan will need to find a way to pass the tests–or she’ll have to leave the city to confront her deadly fate.
Keeper of the Lost Cities
Ok, this is another series that I have not read. However, my daughter Sophie fell head-over-heels in love with this entire series. She has devoured the entire thing…which is no small feat since each book is about 8 billion pages long! The Keeper of the Lost Cities series features Sophie, a young girl genius with a secret…she is a telepath. If you have kids who love action, adventure, fabulous characters, and lots of plot twists…this would be a great series. My Sophie gives it 2 thumbs WAY UP!
Twelve-year-old Sophie has never quite fit into her life. She’s skipped multiple grades and doesn’t really connect with the older kids at school, but she’s not comfortable with her family, either. The reason? Sophie’s a Telepath, someone who can read minds. No one knows her secret—at least, that’s what she thinks…
But the day Sophie meets Fitz, a mysterious (and adorable) boy, she learns she’s not alone. He’s a Telepath too, and it turns out the reason she has never felt at home is that, well…she isn’t. Fitz opens Sophie’s eyes to a shocking truth, and she is forced to leave behind her family for a new life in a place that is vastly different from what she has ever known.
But Sophie still has secrets, and they’re buried deep in her memory for good reason: The answers are dangerous and in high-demand. What is her true identity, and why was she hidden among humans? The truth could mean life or death—and time is running out.
The Troubled Girls of Dragomir Academy
Next up was a book I read just for me! The Troubled Girls of Dragomir Academy was one that I had seen recommended several times on Instagram. The Bookstagram Community is always spending my money…and I am not mad about it. I was immediately drawn in to this gorgeous cover…and I am happy to report that I LOVED the book! Author Anne Ursu has built such an amazing and magical world. Our main character Marya is all but forgotten by her family and society. You see, her brother is destined to be a sorcerer…which means Marya is pretty much nothing. This story was so interesting! I loved the feminist vibes, magic, and exciting twists and turns along the way.
If no one notices Marya Lupu, is likely because of her brother, Luka. And that’s because of what everyone knows: that Luka is destined to become a sorcerer.
The Lupus might be from a small village far from the capital city of Illyria, but that doesn’t matter. Every young boy born in in the kingdom holds the potential for the rare ability to wield magic, to protect the country from the terrifying force known only as the Dread.
For all the hopes the family has for Luka, no one has any for Marya, who can never seem to do anything right. But even so, no one is prepared for the day that the sorcerers finally arrive to test Luka for magical ability, and Marya makes a terrible mistake. Nor the day after, when the Lupus receive a letter from a place called Dragomir Academy—a mysterious school for wayward young girls. Girls like Marya.
Soon she is a hundred miles from home, in a strange and unfamiliar place, surrounded by girls she’s never met. Dragomir Academy promises Marya and her classmates a chance to make something of themselves in service to one of the country’s powerful sorcerers. But as they learn how to fit into a world with no place for them, they begin to discover things about the magic the men of their country wield, as well as the Dread itself—things that threaten the precarious balance upon which Illyria is built.
Where the Mountain Meets the Moon
Last, but most certainly not least is Where the Mountain Meets the Moon by Grace Lin. This book is spectacular. Not only is it beautifully written, but it has stuck with me since the first time I read it. I have since read it two more times…once just for me…and once aloud to my kids. Everyone loved it. Full of Chinese folklore, this is an enchanting story…with equally enchanting illustrations woven in. Minli is such a brave and courageous young girl. She has set out alone on a quest to change her families fortune. This is one of those books where I know my words will never do it justice! Just incredible. Please read it if you already havent!
In the valley of Fruitless mountain, a young girl named Minli lives in a ramshackle hut with her parents. In the evenings, her father regales her with old folktales of the Jade Dragon and the Old Man on the Moon, who knows the answers to all of life’s questions. Inspired by these stories, Minli sets off on an extraordinary journey to find the Old Man on the Moon to ask him how she can change her family’s fortune. She encounters an assorted cast of characters and magical creatures along the way, including a dragon who accompanies her on her quest for the ultimate answer.
Thank you so much for checking out my list of favorite Fantasy books for middle-grade. There are so many other books out there that feature brave, strong, and kick-butt young women, but these are 10 of our favorites that I was so excited to share with you!
Do you have any favorite fantasy books? Who is your favorite character that exhibits strength and bravery? We are always on the lookout!
You can find my full list of favorite middle-grade reads here.