This month we’re turning our spotlight on a genre that challenges the mind and stimulates the imagination: fantasy! A type of fiction that has boomed in popularity over the last decade, thanks to blockbusting series like Harry Potter and A Song of Ice and Fire, the Mentor Education gang have been pleasantly surprised to find a number of fabulous fantasy novels within the recommended reading lists for 12-14 year olds.
Read on to learn more about our top fantasy picks for June!
You’d be hard pressed to find someone who hadn’t heard of J. R. R. Tolkien’s epic series, The Lord of the Rings – but it’s easy to forget that these groundbreaking, richly-imaginative novels are suitable for children.
Fellowship of the Ring – the first in the series – introduces the young hobbit Frodo Baggins and his perilous journey to destroy the One Ring: a challenge that will unfold over the course of trilogy.
The One Ring once belonged to Sauron, the terrible overlord of Middle Earth, but was lost when he was vanquished (many years before The Lord of the Rings). When Fellowship begins, however, it transpires that Sauron is attempting to rise to power once more and has gathered all the Rings of Power to him – all except the One Ring, which has fallen into Frodo’s hands. In order to prevent Sauron from carrying out his evil plans, Frodo and his fellowship – a band of companions comprising men, dwarves, elves, wizards and other young hobbits – must undertake a dangerous expedition to Mount Doom to destroy the ring.
Described as both ‘epic fantasy’ and ‘heroic romance’, Fellowship of the Ring mingles a gripping story, inventive characters and mindboggling detail to create a fully-realised, intricate world. A true classic.
In contrast to Tolkien’s Middle Earth, Northern Lights is set in a world that appears to be very like our own… with a twist. Though there are many similarities – Oxford exists, for instance, as do the colleges – there are also distinct differences: from technology, to language (chocolate is ‘chocolatl’), to religion.
The most important difference, however, is the presence of what is known as a ‘daemon’: an extension of a person’s soul that takes the form of an animal, and which remains by a person’s side throughout their life. Lyra Belacqua, a young girl, and her daemon, Pantalaimon, are the first person/daemon pair that we meet, as they make mischief in their hometown of Oxford and roam the halls of the mysterious Jordan College.
It soon becomes clear, however, that Lyra Belacqua is anything but a normal girl: as the story unfolds, her courage, cunning and thirst for knowledge take her on an astonishing journey, from the streets of Oxford to the frozen wastes of the Arctic. Along the way, she meets all manner of people – gyptians, witches, and ice bears – and begins to uncover secrets that will have huge consequences for her world and beyond.
An extraordinary fantasy novel that grapples with many complex concepts – exploring notions of religion, mortality, and alternate realities, to name just a few – and yet will keep the youngest of readers hooked from beginning to end, Northern Lights offers a tantalising glimpse of an exciting, intriguing universe.
Many children will be familiar with the film adaptations of Suzanne Collins’ popular Hunger Games series. And though we have to admit that the films are excellent – thanks in part to the fantastic cast, which includes acclaimed actors Jennifer Lawrence, Donald Sutherland, and more – the books are even better.
Hunger Games plunges us immediately into a dystopian, hellish future. The United States is now Panem: a dictatorial regime presided over by the fearsome Capitol, a government that wields terrible power over its twelve districts. Each year, the districts are ‘reminded’ of their failed rebellion against the Capitol through a brutal pageant: the eponymous Hunger Games, during which two young contestants (one male and one female between the ages of 11 and 18) from each district enter an arena to fight to the death.
In this heart-thumping tale of survival, we follow the progress of brave heroine, Katniss Everdeen, as she battles in and out of the arena to be the last one standing – literally. Readers of all ages will be mesmerised by the novel’s fast-paced storyline and inspiring depiction of a young woman’s bravery and moral fortitude, and will be keeping their fingers crossed (when they aren’t using them to frantically turn the pages, that is) that the ‘odds are ever in [Katniss’] favour’.
Are you on a mission to find the fantastic fiction for your children? Check out our selection of ‘Best Books’ blogs for recommended reads that are both educational and engaging.