So maybe you love Harry Potter and are trying to find other books like it to read. Or maybe, like me, you were disappointed with the books and want to read something that is similar but better. Here are my suggestions.
Kids Save the World: A common characteristic of fantasy novels is that the hero is usually someone unexpected. In the Harry Potter series, Harry Potter is just an average boy until he gradually discovers that because of the actions of the evil Voldemort, only Harry can destroy Voldemort for good. Here are some of the books/series I really like where the hero(es) are just ordinary kids destined to save the world.
The Dark is Rising sequence: If you haven’t read these books yet you need to stop whatever you are doing and pick these up instead. Written by Susan Cooper, this five book award winning series follows the efforts of five children, one of which is the last of the Old Ones, who are fighting against the Dark. The individual books can be read alone or out of order (I personally started with the middle book and then went to the beginning) but you’ll eventually want to read them all. The entire series has an otherworldly feel to it that I don’t think I’ve gotten from any other series, especially not one that was theoretically intended for juvenile readers.
The Chronicles of Narnia: C.S. Lewis’ extremely popular books for children describe the adventures of various children who are brought into Narnia by Aslan. Technically Aslan is doing all the saving that needs to be done but that doesn’t mean that the children aren’t heroes too. I appreciate these books more now that I am older but I have always been in love with the movies that have been made. A great series for young children to grow up reading.
A Series of Unfortunate Events: Deliciously morbid and extraordinarily clever, this thirteen book series starts off slow but picks up steam by the end of the third book. The three Baudelaire children are orphaned at the beginning of the first book and then spend the rest of the series bouncing from inept guardian to inept guardian while also trying to save their considerable fortune from the evil Count Olaf. And while the Baudelaires aren’t trying to save the world, they are desperately trying to hold on to their world. It’s a fast read with a sly humor and while some parents may find it too dark for their young children, if you or your child can make it through Harry Potter, this should be no problem at all. Written by Lemony Snicket, pen name for Daniel Handler.
Magic in Real Life: One of the greatest appeals of the Harry Potter series and most other magical fantasy books is the idea that magic could be possible in real life. While us Muggles might never have the joy of using a wand and discovering our magical abilities, here are some books to take the sting off.
The Magicians: Written by Lev Grossman, The Magicians was touted as Harry Potter for grownups. Disclaimer: I have not yet read this book. It is actually sitting in my library book stack as I type this so I will theoretically be reading it within the next 3-6 weeks. (And I’ll probably write my thoughts here when I’m done.) But the book is about Quentin Coldwater who grew up reading and loving a fantasy series very similar to the Narnia books. And then Quentin is admitted to a very secret magical college in New York, where he finds that magic is not everything he thought it would be. There is also a sequel out now which I should hopefully be reading soon after I finish The Magicians.
The Rook: I read this book back in March and fell in love with it almost immediately. Here are my thoughts on it. It’s definitely more X-Men than Harry Potter but if you’re interested in people dealing with extraordinary and unusual powers, this book should appeal to you.
Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell: This one is a bit of a stretch for Harry Potter fans, I think, but still worth the effort. I’ve only read this book once, and that was a few years ago, and my initial reaction was that I didn’t like the story. However I have been unable to forget the book since then. It’s set in Regency England (a period I have had a soft spot for since getting hooked on Jane Austen early) and follows the only two real magicians left in England. The details of the time period and the fairy tale/magical aspects are incredible and Susanna Clarke‘s book of short stories, The Ladies of Grace Adieu, is also well worth reading.
Epic Series: Perhaps your favorite part of Harry Potter was the sheer size and length of the series. Well you’re in luck. There’s nothing that fantasy authors love more than writing really long book series. Sometimes that’s a good thing and sometimes it’s not. Here are a few examples of it working well.
A Song of Ice and Fire (Game of Thrones): There are five books so far in this series with another two books planned. That might change though since the series was initially begun to be a trilogy. This is definitely not a series for children and make sure you have a high tolerance for sex and violence before beginning. Despite that, it’s an extremely good series that has exploded in popularity recently thanks to the excellent HBO miniseries. Magic plays a part in the plot, as well as dragons and White Walkers, and it all revolves around the fight for the Iron Throne. Written by George R. R. Martin.
Alvin Maker: Another series by Orson Scott Card (who also wrote the excellent Ender’s Game and related books), the Alvin Maker series is an alternate history of early America. Many people in this America have certain “knacks”, much like magical powers. Alvin is the first Maker in a long time and the series follows his life from birth to young adulthood as he attempts to discover what he is meant to do with his extraordinary skills. This series may or may not be finished; I suppose another book will come if Card decides he has more to tell. It is, however, at a good ending spot.
The Black Company: I don’t remember how many books are in this series but they are all really good. I’ve heard a rumor that another book is forthcoming, which would be really interesting to see where Glen Cook took the story. The Black Company is a mercenary company that works for a wizard who is part of a group of wizards called the Taken. There’s fighting between the wizards, fighting between the company and fighting between the company and outside forces. Magic in various forms plays a huge part of this series and it is well worth reading. It’s also a fast read which is good considering how many books there are.
Honorable Mentions: Here are some books that are just generally superior to Harry Potter in every way.
Lord of the Rings: This is a given. I suppose it’s because the movies came out at about the same time but the two series have been compared to each other numerous times. No surprise there as Rowling unashamedly borrowed quite heavily from Tolkien. Can’t blame her for that since he is the master. A vastly superior book, Lord of the Rings should please any fantasy fan.
His Dark Materials trilogy: Written by Philip Pullman, this trilogy follows the two main characters of Lyra and Will as they travel between worlds fighting a conspiracy. I started reading this series when I was in middle school and never picked up on the religious controversy surrounding the book until the movie came out (which was terrible by the way, don’t see it). I still think it’s a great story despite that and should be entertaining for any fan of Harry Potter.
Some of these books have been surrounded by a fair amount of controversy. If you’re a parent looking for something for your kid, I would recommend that you read or skim the books yourself. If you don’t think it’s appropriate than don’t let your kid read it. Or if you like, let them read it and then use the books to start some interesting discussions.
I’d love to hear some other suggestions for similar books!