Blog – Posted on Wednesday, Jan 02
20 Magical Books Like Harry Potter
After Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows was released, some of us thought we’d never find another worthy book series again. But little did we know that there are tons of other amazing books like Harry Potter out there — you just have to know where to look!
Fortunately, as Albus Dumbledore (more or less) said, “Help will always be given on the Internet to those who ask for it.” Here are 20 magical books like Harry Potter that will Portkey you right back to your Hogwarts days.
1. The Magicians by Lev Grossman
Often hailed as "Harry Potter meets college," The Magicians follows disillusioned 17-year-old Quentin Coldwater as he comes to discover much, much more than the magic of freshman parties. On the day of his supposed Princeton interview, Quentin instead gets interviewed and accepted to Brakebills — a highly selective university of bona fide sorcery.
While he initially finds the Brakebills curriculum frustrating and tedious (they have to study hand positions and phases of the moon), Quentin ultimately rises to its challenges, forming strong bonds with his fellow classmates. Good thing, too, because he’ll need them when trouble comes knocking… trouble which, as we know from HP, is never far away from any given magic school.
2. The Kane Chronicles by Rick Riordan
Though he’s best known for his Percy Jackson and Heroes of Olympus series, Rick Riordan’s Kane Chronicles are just as thrilling as their Greek predecessors. The protagonists of this series are Carter and Sadie Kane, siblings whose Egyptologist father reconnects them with their own ancient roots — that is, that they’re descended from Egyptian pharaohs and magicians.
After their father is captured by Set, the Egyptian god of evil, Carter and Sadie must tap into parts of themselves they never knew existed and battle unimaginably powerful forces. For those of us who had a childhood obsession with Egyptology (Cluefinders, anyone?), this book is a marvelous source of wish fulfillment and entertainment all the way through.
3. His Dark Materials by Philip Pullman
Pullman’s works are perfect for the reader who craves an intellectual challenge. Taking place across multiple universes and containing some pretty complex religious references (not to mention criticisms), His Dark Materials grounds itself in the journey of Lyra Belacqua, a 12-year-old girl with a knack for lying. Lyra and her dæmon (the external, animal manifestation of her “inner self”) travel the worlds of the series in search of kidnapped children, and a mysterious elemental matter called “Dust.” These quests reveal mind-bending twists and turns that Pullman masterfully narrates over the course of this epic trilogy.
4. The Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel by Michael Scott
Turns out J.K. Rowling didn’t invent the character of Flamel, but based him on an actual person! And she wasn’t the only one to find him a fascinating figure, as evidenced by the depth and intricacy of this six-book series by Michael Scott (not the regional manager of Dunder Mifflin).
Secrets begins with a pair of teenage twins, Sophie and Josh, who realize their employer “Nick” is none other than 700-year-old alchemist Nicholas Flamel — and that their lives are prophetically intertwined with his. As the series unfurls, many more shocking truths come to light about the twins’ destinies and the nature of mortality, all of which are made particularly resonant by Scott’s connections to the real historical legend of Flamel.
5. Inkheart by Cornelia Funke
Many of us will remember Funke’s work from our elementary school library bookshelves, but it’s also never too late to get into this absolute classic. Inkheart follows young Meggie and her bookbinding father (so quaint!) as they discover their extraordinary power: just by reading aloud, they can bring fictional characters into the real world.
But for every character that comes out of a book, someone else has to take their place. Such dire consequences drive our father-daughter duo on a mission to get all the characters back in their rightful pages — but of course, those characters are not going to go down without a fight.
6. The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern
This novel, originally written as a NaNoWriMo draft, chronicles star-crossed lovers Marco and Celia as they attempt to thwart their shared fate: to go up against each other in a dramatic duel. Their battleground is Le Cirque des Rêves, a nighttime circus with performers whose true sorcery is disguised as mere illusions. As Celia and Marco both grow stronger — and achieve increasingly magnificent exhibitions through their competition, such as an eternal bonfire and a “Wishing Tree” — they realize the true implications of their bond, and start working against it to save themselves and each other.
7. Eyes Like Stars by Lisa Mantchev
“All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players.”
Such is the life of Beatrice Smith, the heroine of this surrealist meta-drama. Beatrice has grown up in the “Theatre Illuminata” surrounded by characters from various plays, especially those from Shakespeare (her best friends are Ariel from The Tempest and the four fairies from Midsummer). But as Beatrice learns more about the theatre, she comes to understand that it may be more prison than playground… and that the fates of its inmates are in her hands.
8. The Raven Cycle by Maggie Stiefvater
The Raven Cycle combines many fantastical elements: clairvoyance, supernatural occurrences, historical symbolism, and more. Beginning, like many great stories, with an intriguing prophecy about its main character (“If Blue ever kisses her true love, he will die”), Stiefvater’s Raven Cycle goes on to track the intertwining relationships of Blue and the eponymous “Raven Boys” — a quartet of wealthy private school kids whose greatest wish is to find a dead Welsh king. Why they’re so desperate to locate him can only be explained in its pages, but just trust us that this series is a totally wild ride from start to finish.
9. Pennyroyal Academy by M.A. Larson
Created by a former TV writer for Cartoon Network and Disney, Pennyroyal Academy naturally has everything you could ever want in a fun middle-grade fantasy. There’s a combat school for knights and princesses, a memory-wiped girl who emerges from the woods, and of course an all-out war between good and evil. Luckily, the potential heaviness of this scenario is offset by the hilarity of characters like the academy’s “Fairy Drillsergeant,” as well as the delightfully subversive vision of princesses scrabbling through mud and dogpiling on top of each other during combat training.
10. Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine
If you’ve seen the movie but never read the book, do yourself a huge favor and buy it right now. In this young adult fantasy novel, Levine skillfully weaves the tale of Cinderella into a decidedly darker, less Disney-esque tapestry. Our heroine Ella has been cursed to obey every order she receives, even when it endangers her life. She sets off on a quest to reverse the “gift,” but has to contend with everything from hungry ogres to wicked stepsisters along the way — not to mention the constant threat of strangers discovering the curse and using it against her.
Gloriously imaginative and compulsively readable, Ella Enchanted has become just as much of classic as the fairytale it emulates. It’s tragically a standalone novel rather than a series, but it could be credited with sparking the modern trend of fairytale retellings. Speaking of which…
11. The Lunar Chronicles by Marissa Meyer
Marissa Meyer’s Lunar Chronicles series lends a modern voice not just to Cinderella, but also Red Riding Hood, Rapunzel, and Snow White — oh, and did we mention a good portion of it takes place in outer space? From cyborgs and androids to intergalactic tyrants to “lunar gangs” that street-fight on the surface of the moon, every single book in this sci-fi/fairytale mashup packs a serious punch. (The kind you wouldn’t want to face alone in a dark… crater? Or whatever the lunar equivalent of an alley is.)
12. Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard
This one sounds like a fairytale retelling, but it’s actually a biting, brutal examination of class hierarchies and blood feuds… literally. In Red Queen, the population divides and conquers — or is conquered — based on the color of their blood. Young, red-blooded commoner Mare Barrow is a lowly worker at the “Silver Palace,” until a sudden twist of fate launches her into their upper ranks. The Silvers immediately see that this red-blooded girl threatens their sovereignty, and they hatch a plan to claim her as a "lost Silver princess” and get her on their side. Little do they know that Mare has a few of her own tricks to play — and that she knows that blood alone moves the wheels of history (silver blood, that is).
13. Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman
Though the TV series technically came first, Neil Gaiman’s novelized adaptation of Neverwhere has become a fantasy staple in its own right. Businessman Richard Mayhew gets sucked into the world of “London Below,” a Stranger Things Upside-Down-esque version of the city — where Knightsbridge is not a posh shopping district but an actual bridge with a knight, and where the trains runs on its own random schedule. Though Richard’s only intention is to right the wrongs that have transpired in “London Above,” he quickly becomes wrapped up in the drama of this “neverwhere,” following a mysterious girl named Door (#symbolism) who may or may not lead him to his doom.
14. Artemis Fowl by Eoin Colfer
This is another classic fantasy series that you absolutely can’t miss. For those who never read the books, the titular Artemis is a preteen genius-slash-billionaire-slash-criminal-mastermind who kidnaps a fairy (you heard that right) to ransom for gold. Fowl’s nefarious nature is a great twist on the “precocious youngster uses special gifts to save the world” trope so often seen in fantasy YA — not to mention it sets the stage for an extremely satisfying redemption arc.
15. Half Magic by Edward Eager
Coming up next, another nostalgic entry! Indeed, Half Magic (originally published in 1954) is old enough now to be a septuagenarian’s fond childhood memory. But its hilarious premise and timeless story of kids discovering magic have helped it endure. In Half Magic, siblings Jane, Mark, Katherine, and Martha find an enchanted coin that will grant any wish they speak to it — but only halfway.
Eager’s execution of this concept is brilliant, his comic timing top-notch. You’ll laugh nonstop at the children’s hijinks, from making their cat speak gibberish to going back in time to meet Lancelot (only to find that he’s a jerk). But by the end of the book, you’ll also understand — as the kids do too — that wishing itself can only get you so far, and that imagination is the truest source of magic.
16. The Spiderwick Chronicles by Holly Black and Tony DiTerlizzi
More fairies, hurrah! The Spiderwick Chronicles is another elementary school favorite, following the adventures of the Grace children after they move into the crumbling, mysterious Spiderwick Estate. They soon find a “field guide” to the magical world around them, full of details about all sorts of spectacular fairy creatures. But this book was never meant to fall into mortal hands — which means the Grace children must learn to use it wisely, or else face terrible consequences.
17. The Uncommoners by Jennifer Bell
A recently released treat for the younger crowd, Bell’s Uncommoners series is a bit of an elementary-appropriate Neverwhere: it too takes us on a journey to a mysterious city under London (though this time the “under” part is literal). The subterranean city of Lundinor is full of enchantments and oddities — and even as our young protagonists Ivy and Seb struggle to navigate this secret world, they find that Lundinor may also hold answers to all their questions.
18. Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi
One of the most fascinating and original YA debuts in recent years, Children of Blood and Bone is a story set in the West African-inspired land of Orïsha. It’s a place of magic and possibility, but its tyrant ruler King Saran believes that only he should determine its destiny. Enter Zélie: a “divîner” with magical blood, she is one of the last descendants of her maji people after Saran massacred them all — and she is hell-bent on returning magic to Orïsha and defeating the evil king once and for all.
19. Shades of Magic by V.E. Schwab
Did you think we were done with multiple Londons? You thought wrong. The Shades of Magic series involves not two, not three, but four different Londons: Grey, Red, White, and the dreaded Black. Our main character Kell is a magician with the unique ability to traverse among them. And with this great power comes great irresponsibility, at least for Kell — he uses his talents to illegally smuggle things between these Londons. That is until one day, after landing in Grey London, he meets his match in a scrappy pickpocket who’ll change his life forever.
20. These Witches Don't Burn by Isabel Sterling
This one doesn’t come out until May 2019, but as we Potter fans know, it’s always nice to have something to anticipate. These Witches Don’t Burn is a sharp, contemporary tale of a young Elemental witch named Hannah, whose life is pretty much sunshine and rainbows (well, more like candles and crystals, but you get it), even if she does run into her ex-girlfriend Veronica from time to time. All that changes when Hannah realizes that a shadow of dark magic hovers over her town of Salem (of course)... and she and Veronica (who’s also a witch!) must work together to save it.
It may be impossible to ever completely fill the Harry Potter-shaped void in your soul. But each creative, daring, magical book on this list will give you something brand new to appreciate, and something nostalgic to revisit again years from now. Just remember (to quote Dumbledore one last time — he’s a smart guy!), the written word truly is “our most inexhaustible source of magic."
Hope you found a great new read to help you through your Harry Potter withdrawals! Though of course, there's nothing like the originals — check out this post to relive the magic of HP all over again.