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18 July 2011 @ 09:53 am
Little Known Fantasy Gems  
Looking for great summer reads? We at the Inkpot are going to help you find some wonderful books that may have slipped under your radar until now. The books we love, and are sad to see hardly anyone talking about. Here are our favorite lesser-known fantasy gems.


Birth of the Firebringer by Meredith Ann Pierce - Lovely lyrical writing, great world-building, and a gripping adventure. Yes, it's about unicorns. Get past that, and you'll find a mature and thoughtful YA story more people should read.
-Megan Crewe

Wish Stealers by Tracy Trivas - It's an MG that is just so sweet and fun I'm always surprised when people haven't heard of it.
-Lisa Gail Green

The Folk Keeper by Franny Billingsley - Now that her latest book, Chime, is getting so much attention, maybe people will take a second look at her previous works. I hope so! Like Chime, it's got beautiful prose and a wonderfully thorny girl protagonist.
-Lena Coakley


The Night of the Solstice by L.J. Smith - One of my all-time favorite mid-grade fantasies. It's about four siblings who discover that mirrors serve as a passageway to another world, and that on the winter solstice, our own world will be invaded. It's a fast-paced book full of wonderful magical moments and realistic family interactions.
-Leah Cypress

The Search for Delicious by Natalie Babbitt - It's a middle grade novel for about a 3rd grader and it was published quite a while ago so I think many have forgotten about it. It's about a young boy who goes on a quest to find the definition of the "delicious" for the royal dictionary. Of course, everyone has a different definition of what is delicious and he's soon embroiled in an adventure meeting mermaids and dwarves and a plot to takeover the kingdom. It's one of those books that can be read on two levels, a simple, fun adventure story or with deeper meaning, more symbolic meaning. It's a wonderful book that is really quite deceptive in its simplicity.
-Grace Lin

Taash and the Jesters by Ellen Kindt McKenzie - Taash is a boy being raised by an old woman and a jester; one day he walks down a forbidden path in the forest and ends up rescuing a baby from a group of witches at the height of their evil ritual. Then he goes on the lam with the child and meets up with his jester's "cousin twin." The witches are in hot pursuit, of course. An adventure well spiced with humor alongside the peril, plus the characters feel very real.

The Wicked Enchantment by Margot Benary-Isbert - The Wicked Enchantment takes place in a German town maybe a century ago. Upset when her new stepmother is cruel to her beloved dog, Anemone runs away from home--but merely across town to one of her honorary "aunts." Then she works to solve a mystery: why has the mayor of Vogelsang banned the sale of eggs just before Easter, and what happened to the statues missing from the cathedral? A circus comes to town, the men of Vogelsang are acting almost as strangely as the women, and Anemone must avoid pursuit by her icky little stepbrother and his pals throughout. This story has a rollicking feel and a unique magical dilemma. Too bad it's out of print!
-Kate Coombs

The Gammage Cup by Carol Kendall - A funky, off-beat MG fantasy with incredible heart, soul--and a sense of humor!
-Hilari Bell


Zel by Donna Jo Napoli - A take on Rapunzel, which is gorgeously written and does a wonderful job of expanding on and adding depth to the fairy tale.

Eyes Like Stars by Lisa Mantchev - A ton of fun, brimming with a cast of characters both original and familiar (most of them come from famous plays). It was unlike anything I'd read before, and that's hard to come by!
-Marissa Meyer

A Certain Slant of Light by Laura Whitcomb - it's a beautifully written, romantic ghost story.

The Changeover by Margaret Mahy - Lesser known because it is tragically out of print. I am seriously baffled as to why--with the recent paranormal romance craze, a reissue would make complete sense.
-Alison Ching

Okay, readers. What are your favorite YA and MG fantasies that don't seem to get the attention they deserve?
Heather Tomlinson: storybookgirl-dulaccalepin on July 18th, 2011 03:23 pm (UTC)
How about Clare Dunkle's goblin books:

The Hollow Kingdom
Close Kin
In the Coils of the Snake

and Elizabeth Marie Pope's Perilous Gard (Tam Lin retelling) is fairly well known, but I've always liked her Revolutionary War-era ghost story too: The Sherwood Ring.
Jackiefabulousfrock on July 18th, 2011 04:47 pm (UTC)
I thought of The Hollow Kingdom books first myself! They are so good!
carmenferreirocarmenferreiro on July 18th, 2011 03:27 pm (UTC)
The Shamer's Chronicles by Lene Kaaberbal is my all time favorite.

It's beautifully written. It is the heartfelt story of a girl who everybody avoids because she can see the soul when looking into somebody's eyes and the reluctant prince who fears the corruption that power brings.

All characters are fully developed, including the antagonist, making for a fast paced story full of adventure.
A Deserving Porcupine: rebeccarockinlibrarian on July 18th, 2011 09:29 pm (UTC)
I wouldn't say they're exactly little-known, but I always feel that Diane Duane's Young Wizards books are severely underrated.

All my other favorite true fantasies are distinctly more well-known, or at least come from well-known authors so have probably been discovered already.
Do Gerald Morris's Arthurian retellings count as fantasy? Do they count as little-known, even?
Catherine Hainescatherinehaines on July 19th, 2011 12:49 am (UTC)
You can get The Changeover from places in the UK that ship overseas (the Book Depository has it, for example) but I agree that it needs a reprint.

I think The Tricksters by Margaret Mahy also needs a lot more attention.

As for one that is entirely out of print: Winter of Fire by Sherryl Jordan. You'd think with the dystopian trend that is happening they'd pick up this fantasy with dystopian elements. But I guess not. :/
khek: dj hmmkhek on July 19th, 2011 02:44 am (UTC)
I loved Taash and the Jesters! There was a sequel to it called Kashka that was pretty good too.

Margaret McElderry's imprint back in the 70s/80s had some really good fantasy books. I loved Knee Deep in Thunder by Sheila Moon, and Drujiena's Harp (although I'm not sure I've spelled that right!) also by Ellen Kindt McKenzie was very mysterious and haunting too. I always expected that it should have a sequel, but as far as I know, it never did.

dawn_metcalf: Shiny!dawn_metcalf on July 19th, 2011 09:51 pm (UTC)

(And I bunch I haven't read yet! EEE!)
Skylark: imagineskyewishes on July 19th, 2011 11:40 pm (UTC)
Great list! There's a few I'd love to read.

One of my favourite, underated YA Fantasy series is by Jan Siegel, Prospero's Children, The Dragon Charmer and Witch's Honour. She's one of those precious few authors who can take something over-used, like Witches and Dragons, and make you forget everything you've ever read about them.
katecoombs on July 20th, 2011 03:24 am (UTC)
By the way Hilari, I'm also a fan of The Gammage Cup. And the sequel!
Jess/Penniepenrynsdreams on July 24th, 2011 12:19 am (UTC)
Me too! I LOVED the Gammage Cup back in the day! I wonder where my old copy is...