3. The Kingdom series by Cynthia Voigt
This is an older series from the 1990s, but it’s a beautiful, fantasy-type world without magic, and has been one of my favorite series since high school. The themes and story lines in the books are geared towards an older Young Adult audience. The novels are all loosely connected and set in a fictional “Kingdom” and the countries that surround it. The world is medieval, with kings, earls, puppeteers, and so on.
The first of the series, Jackaroo, has a “Robin Hood” plot involving a heroic figure who steals from the rich to give to the poor. Although an engaging story, it’s my least favorite in the series. My two favorites are On Fortune’s Wheel and The Wings of a Falcon. The first is a typical romance/adventure where girl meets boy, girl falls for boy who doesn’t at first care for her, etc., but it’s not a love easily won, and therein lies the story’s strength.
The Wings of a Falcon involves the quest of a young man looking for peace. He starts out as a slave imprisoned on an island and breaks free, taking another boy with him. The book is full of action, some romance, a tragic yet happy ending, and has an epic scope built for the big screen. With names like Oriel, Griff, and Beryl, it fits nicely into a fantasy genre, but again, without the use of magic as a trope.
The standout here is Voigt’s writing, which is notable because one doesn’t note it while reading. One can become completely involved in the story, and that is the point. No ridiculous metaphors (I have to battle this in my own writing), or effusive descriptions, just good, clean storytelling. Modern YA is plagued by “purple prose” possibly because so many of us are going the self-publishing route, but professional writer that Voigt is, she has none of those problems.
Why this could be the next Harry Potter: The stories in the series can appeal to both teens and adults. The “Kingdom” world is adaptable to the screen and invites the possibility of many more stories set in the same world. The settings evoke the romance of nature, from woods, to mountains, to sea. The heroes/heroines in the stories are sometimes childish due to their age, but they are “young adults,” with the emphasis falling on “adults.” The Kingdom world is closer in gravity and themes to The Lord of the Rings and the later Harry Potter books, and is also not a true “series” as the novels take place in some cases generations apart. Still, the tales offer much “scope for the imagination,” as Anne of Green Gables (I’d love to see this series remade!) would say.
Thanks for reading. –Pixie Beldona