The word fairy come from the Old French words faie or fee, which meant a woman skilled in magic, and who knew the power and virtue of words, of stones, and of herbs. Our definitions have evolved since then, but most fairies are still dangerous (if diminutive) females.
Many of these stories are YA and feature dangerous teen romance. If you’re looking for magical mayhem sans adolescent crushes, jump straight to Nyx or Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell.
16. Glimmerglass by Jenna Black – 2010
Book 1 of 3 in the Faeriewalker series
In this YA story, Dana Hathaway doesn’t know it yet, but she’s in big trouble. When her alcoholic mom shows up drunk at her voice recital, Dana decides she’s had enough and runs away to find her mysterious father in Avalon: the only place on Earth where the regular, everyday world and the captivating, magical world of Faerie intersect. But from the moment Dana sets foot in Avalon, everything goes wrong, for it turns out she isn’t just an ordinary teenage girl—she’s a Faeriewalker, a rare individual who can travel between both worlds, and the only person who can bring magic into the human world and technology into Faerie.
Soon, Dana finds herself tangled up in a cutthroat game of Fae politics. Someone’s trying to kill her, and everyone seems to want something from her, from her newfound friends and family to Ethan, the hot Fae guy Dana figures she’ll never have a chance with… until she does. Caught between two worlds, Dana isn’t sure where she’ll ever fit in and who can be trusted, not to mention if her world will ever be normal again…
“This is a promising start to a series that should have broad appeal among teens tiring of vampires but not dangerous romance.”
15. Wildwood Dancing by Juliet Marillier – 2006
Book 1 of 2 in the Wildwood Dancing series
In this YA story, high in the Transylvanian woods, at the castle Piscul Draculi, live five daughters and their doting father. It’s an idyllic life for Jena, the second eldest, who spends her time exploring the mysterious forest with her constant companion, a most unusual frog. But best by far is the castle’s hidden portal, known only to the sisters. Every Full Moon, they alone can pass through it into the enchanted world of the Other Kingdom. There they dance through the night with the fey creatures of this magical realm.
But their peace is shattered when Father falls ill and must go to the southern parts to recover, for that is when cousin Cezar arrives. Though he’s there to help the girls survive the brutal winter, Jena suspects he has darker motives in store. Meanwhile, Jena’s sister has fallen in love with a dangerous creature from the Other Kingdom—an impossible union it’s up to Jena to stop.
When Cezar’s grip of power begins to tighten, at stake is everything Jena loves: her home, her family, and the Other Kingdom she has come to cherish. To save her world, Jena will be tested in ways she can’t imagine—tests of trust, strength, and true love.
“Strong characters, two fully realized settings, and a fast-moving plot guarantee that readers will be spellbound by this page-turner.”
—School Library Journal (starred review)
14. Peter Pan by J.M. Barrie – 1904
The origin of the most famous fairy that ever was.
13. Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine – 1997
Book 1 of 4 in the Enchanted series
Newbery Medal Honor book. Ages 8-12.
At her birth, Ella of Frell receives a foolish fairy’s gift—the “gift” of obedience. Ella must obey any order, whether it’s to hop on one foot for a day and a half, or to chop off her own head! But strong-willed Ella does not accept her fate…
“A winning combination of memorable characters and an alluring fantasy realm.”
—Publishers Weekly (starred review)
12. Artemis Fowl by Eoin Colfer – 2001
Book 1 of 8 in the Artemis Fowl series
Twelve-year-old criminal mastermind Artemis Fowl has discovered a world below ground of armed and dangerous—and extremely high-tech—fairies. He kidnaps one of them, Holly Short, and holds her for ransom in an effort to restore his family’s fortune. But he may have underestimated the fairies’ powers. Is he about to trigger a cross-species war?
“Will grab your interest, no matter what your age.”
―The New York Post
11. Stardust by Neil Gaiman – 1997
In the sleepy English countryside of decades past, there is a town that has stood on a jut of granite for 600 years. And immediately to the east stands a high stone wall, for which the village is named. Here in the town of Wall, Tristran Thorn has lost his heart to the hauntingly beautiful Victoria Forester. One crisp October night, as they watch, a star falls from the sky, and Victoria promises to marry Tristran if he’ll retrieve the star and bring it back for her. It is this promise that sends Tristran through the only gap in the wall, across the meadow, and into the most unforgettable adventure of his life.
“Strange… marvelous… Stardust takes us back to a time when the world was more magical, and, real or not, that world is a charming place.”
10. Lament: The Faerie Queen’s Deception by Maggie Stiefvater – 2008
Book 1 of 2 in the Books of Faerie Series
Sixteen-year-old Deirdre Monaghan is a painfully shy but prodigiously gifted musician. She’s about to find out she’s also a cloverhand—one who can see faeries. Deirdre finds herself infatuated with a mysterious boy who enters her ordinary suburban life, seemingly out of thin air. Trouble is, the enigmatic and gorgeous Luke turns out to be a gallowglass—a soulless faerie assassin. An equally hunky (and equally dangerous) dark faerie soldier named Aodhan is also stalking Deirdre.
Sworn enemies, Luke and Aodhan each have a deadly assignment from the Faerie Queen. Namely, kill Deirdre before her music captures the attention of the Fae and threatens the Queen’s sovereignty. Caught in the crossfire with Deirdre is James, her wisecracking but loyal best friend. Deirdre had been wishing her life weren’t so dull, but getting trapped in the middle of a centuries-old faerie war isn’t exactly what she had in mind….
“Vibrant and potent, YA readers searching for faerie stories will be happy to find this accomplished debut novel.”
—Publishers Weekly (starred review)
9. City of Bones by Cassandra Clare – 2007
Book 1 of 6 in The Mortal Instruments series
When fifteen-year-old Clary Fray heads out to the Pandemonium Club in New York City, she hardly expects to witness a murder—much less a murder committed by three teenagers covered with strange tattoos and brandishing bizarre weapons. Then the body disappears into thin air. It’s hard to call the police when the murderers are invisible to everyone else and when there is nothing, not even a smear of blood, to show that a boy has died. Or was he a boy?
This was Clary’s first meeting with the Shadowhunters, warriors dedicated to ridding the earth of demons. It’s also her first encounter with Jace, a Shadowhunter who looks a little like an angel and acts a lot like a jerk. Within twenty-four hours Clary is pulled into Jace’s world with a vengeance, when her mother disappears and Clary herself is attacked by a demon. But why would demons be interested in ordinary mundanes like Clary and her mother? And how did Clary suddenly get the Sight? The Shadowhunters would like to know.
“[P]repare to be hooked.”
8. Wings by Aprilynne Pike – 2009
Book 1 of 5 in the Wings series
Laurel’s life is the very definition of normal… until the morning when she wakes up to discover a flower blooming from her back. As it turns out, nothing in Laurel’s life is what it seems. Now, with the help of an alluring faerie sentry who holds the key to her true past, Laurel must race to save her human family from the centuries-old faerie enemies who walk among them.
“In the current crop of supernatural romances, this one stands out. Silky narration…delicious escapism.”
7. Darkfever by Karen Marie Moning – 2006
Book 1 of 11 in the Fever series
When her sister is murdered, leaving a single clue to her death—a cryptic message on Mac’s cell phone—Mac journeys to Ireland in search of answers. The quest to find her sister’s killer draws her into a shadowy realm where nothing is as it seems, where good and evil wear the same treacherously seductive mask. She is soon faced with an even greater challenge: staying alive long enough to learn how to handle a power she had no idea she possessed—a gift that allows her to see beyond the world of man, into the dangerous realm of the Fae.
As Mac delves deeper into the mystery of her sister’s death, her every move is shadowed by the dark, mysterious Jericho, a man with no past and only mockery for a future. As she begins to close in on the truth, the ruthless Vlane—an alpha Fae who makes sex an addiction for human women—closes in on her. And as the boundary between worlds begins to crumble, Mac’s true mission becomes clear: find the elusive Sinsar Dubh before someone else claims the all-powerful Dark Book—because whoever gets to it first holds nothing less than complete control of the very fabric of both worlds in their hands.
“A compelling world filled with mystery and vivid characters.”
6. Wicked Lovely by Melissa Marr – 2007
Book 1 of 5 in the Wicked Lovely series
In this YA urban fantasy, Aislinn has always seen faeries. Powerful and dangerous, they walk hidden in mortal world. Aislinn fears their cruelty—especially if they learn of her Sight—and wishes she were as blind to their presence as other teens.
Now faeries are stalking her. One of them, Keenan, who is equal parts terrifying and alluring, is trying to talk to her, asking questions Aislinn is afraid to answer. Keenan is the Summer King who has sought his queen for nine centuries. Without her, summer itself will perish. He is determined that Aislinn will become the Summer Queen at any cost—regardless of her plans or desires.
Suddenly none of the rules that have kept Aislinn safe are working anymore, and everything is on the line: her freedom, her best friend Seth, her life—everything.
“Marr offers readers a fully imagined faery world that runs alongside an everyday world, which even non-fantasy (or faerie) lovers will want to delve into.”
—Publishers Weekly (starred review)
5. Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell by Susanna Clarke – 2004
At the dawn of the nineteenth century, two very different magicians emerge to change England’s history. In the year 1806, with the Napoleonic Wars raging on land and sea, most people believe magic to be long dead in England until the reclusive Mr Norrell reveals his powers, and becomes a celebrity overnight.
Soon, another practicing magician comes forth: the young, handsome, and daring Jonathan Strange. He becomes Norrell’s student, and they join forces in the war against France. But Strange is increasingly drawn to the perilous magic of the faerie Raven King. This strains his partnership with Norrell and puts at risk everything else he holds dear.
“Clarke’s imagination is prodigious, her pacing is masterly and she knows how to employ dry humor in the service of majesty.”
―The New York Times
4. Nyx by D. M. Livingston – 2013
Nyx, a sarcastic, mildly homicidal fairy, is hurled into Hell, but instead of damned souls and devils, she finds only a group of confused, young human witches.
It’s hate at first sight.
But Nyx and the witches, whose magical skills are not quite polished, must work together to survive the ravages of Hell, and then the demon-infested nightmare Earth has become.
The motley crew searches for the Keys of Iron, Flame, and Sorrow, which will (hopefully) close the Gates of Hell. However, the dark queen Morda, who opened the Gates by tricking Lucifer himself, takes a special interest in obliterating the bickering group.
That is, if they don’t obliterate each other first…
“[D]espite its dark theme, the abundance of death and monsters, it’s hilarious! … DO NOT skip the footnotes… It’s grotesque and strange but it is definitely fun.”
(Full disclosure: I wrote this one.)
3. Tithe by Holly Black – 2002
Book 1 of 3 in the Modern Faerie Tale series
Sixteen-year-old Kaye is a modern nomad. Fierce and independent, she travels from city to city with her mother’s rock band until an ominous attack forces the sixteen-year-old back to her childhood home. There, amid the industrial, blue-collar New Jersey backdrop, Kaye soon finds herself an unwilling pawn in an ancient power struggle between two rival faerie kingdoms—a struggle that could very well mean her death.
“Debauchery, despair, deceit, and grisly death—what more could you ask for from a fairy tale?… A luscious treat for fans of urban fantasy and romantic horror.”
—Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
2. The Iron King by Julie Kagawa – 2010
Book 1 of 7 in The Iron Fey series
In this YA story, something has always felt slightly off in Meghan’s life, ever since her father disappeared before her eyes when she was six. She has never quite fit in at school or at home.
When a dark stranger begins watching her from afar and her prankster best friend becomes strangely protective of her, Meghan senses that everything she’s known is about to change. But she could never have guessed the truth.
For Meghan is the daughter of a mythical faery king and a pawn in a deadly war. Now Meghan will learn just how far she’ll go to save someone she cares about, stop a mysterious evil no faery creature dare face, and find love with a young prince who might rather see her dead than let her touch his icy heart.
“The Iron King has the…enchantment, imagination and adventure of… Alice in Wonderland, Narnia and The Lord of the Rings, but with lots more romance.”
1. A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas – 2015
Book 1 of 3 in the A Court of Thorns and Roses series
When nineteen-year-old huntress Feyre kills a wolf in the woods, a beast-like creature arrives to demand retribution for it. Dragged to a treacherous magical land she only knows about from legends, Feyre discovers that her captor is not an animal, but Tamlin: one of the lethal, immortal faeries who once ruled their world.
As she dwells on his estate, her feelings for Tamlin transform from icy hostility into a fiery passion that burns through every lie and warning she’s been told about the beautiful, dangerous world of the Fae. But an ancient, wicked shadow over the faerie lands is growing, and Feyre must find a way to stop it or doom Tamlin—and his world—forever.
“[T]he sexual tension and deadly action are well-supported by Maas’ expertly drawn, multidimensional characters and their nuanced interpersonal dynamics… Sexy and romantic.”