Monday, July 25, 2011

Harry Potter Read-Alikes for Grown-ups

We all love Harry Potter. From fantasy fanatics like me, to the fantasy-wary, almost everyone finds something to like in the easy-readability, the fanciful world, the likable characters, and the strong sense of morality. Here's my list of Harry Potter "read-alikes" (books that offer a similar reading experience) for adults.

Sabriel by Garth Nix
This is probably the best recommendation on this list; if you like Harry Potter, you should read Sabriel. The title character is tough and appealing, as she faces an array of obstacles both creative and frightening. You'll love the world and its characters both.

The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman
Okay, I said I wasn't sticking to Juvenile Fiction, but I'll use it when appropriate. Gaiman is a genius, and The Graveyard Book is a great story. Even if you don't particularly care about fantasy, you should give Bod a chance to win you over.

The Warrior's Apprentice by Lois McMaster Bujold (Vorkosigan Saga)
The Harry Potter series is a great coming-of-age story; it watches Harry grow up, from age 11 to age 17. In a way, the Vorkosigan saga is the same; it starts Miles' story at 17, and watches him grow up from there. It's science fiction instead of fantasy, but it shares some charming qualities with Harry Potter. You can't help but love Miles, even when you don't agree with his decisions, and the books read fun and easy. If you love finding a new series to sink your teeth into, you'll be delighted to discover the Vorkosigan saga.

His Majesty's Dragon by Naomi Novik (Temeraire series)
I'm consistently struck by how much I like the characters in this series - I was hooked right from the start. The adventure is fun, and of course, there are dragons - who doesn't like dragons? But what really got this book on the list are the wider themes. Much like Harry, as the series progresses the characters must deal with not only their own dangers, but with a choice of how to behave in the face of wider injustice.

Enchantment by Orson Scott Card
How will an ordinary young man respond when he finds himself at the center of extraordinary circumstances, battling a legendary villain? The inner journey of the two main characters is the linchpin of this fairy tale.

On Fortune's Wheel by Cynthia Voigt
Character focused, thoroughly appealing. I like to bring up Cynthia Voigt when I talk about strong women in fantasy. Her characters have a true strength; not the leather-outfit, tough-exterior strength that you sometimes see, but an iron-at-the-core strength that will resonate with anyone.

The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien
Whether you love or hate The Lord of the Rings, don't expect The Hobbit to be cut from the same epic cloth. It's a great adventure story, extremely accessible, with a sense of humor and a lot of relatability.

Fairies of Dreamdark: Blackbringer by Laini Taylor
I've been trying to recommend books with a universal appeal; stuff that even a non-fantasy-reader will enjoy. This book is an exception. It isn't a story of rich characterization that explores the heights and depths of the human spirit. This is a fun adventure, starring. . . fairies! Awesome fairies, fighting evil powers. Trust me, it's a total blast, and if you liked watching Harry learn to live up to his destiny, you'll like watching Magpie do the same.

I'm happy to hear your additions to the list! Add in the comments, or mention on Facebook and I can repost. I've mostly stuck to fantasy, but don't feel limited. I almost put Voigt's Dicey's Song on the list, but On Fortune's Wheel won out.
Well, here's where I'm adding the suggestions that other people have for the list, and stuff I didn't think about the first time around.

His Dark Materials by Phillip Pullman I purposefully left this off the first list, but I'll add it here along with her description (thanks Maya!): "It's a fantastic coming of age story whose narrative complexity follows the character's emerging adulthood. It's filled with complex issues and the need for true bravery."

Why I left it off: That very complexity takes the form of an increasingly conceptual story, touching on philosophical and religious issues. Characters (and therefore readers!) must cope with higher levels of moral ambiguity and personal tragedy.

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