A lot of people are obsessed with JK Rowling’s Harry Potter series. It’s one of those series that fans read over and over again to relive that childhood wonder. There is a lot to love about Harry Potter and just as much that Rowling – who, I must remind you, is a vile TERF and should never be supported in any capacity – could’ve done better, but no matter what you can’t dispute its influence in the reading world.
For readers looking to recreate some of those Harry Potter feels, here’s a list of some middle grade, young adult, and adult books to check out next.
Charmed Life by Diana Wynne Jones
Chrestomanci #1 – 1977
“Cat doesn’t mind living in the shadow of his sister, Gwendolen, the most promising young witch ever seen on Coven Street. But trouble starts brewing the moment the two orphans are summoned to live in Chrestomanci Castle.”
We’re going back catalogue here, but Diana Wynne Jones is always worth reading. Chrestomanci is an office in the British government dedicated to overseeing the use of magic in the multiverse. During the series, the main Chrestomanci is Christopher Chant (who gets his own books in the series), and in the first he takes in two orphans with magical abilities. One uses his powers for good, the other for ill. The Chrestomanci series is Middle Grade fiction and makes for a good jumping off point for readers looking to recreate the feel of the early Harry Potter books.
Akata Witch by Nnedi Okorafor
Akata Witch #1 – April 14, 2011
“Together, Sunny, Orlu, Chichi and Sasha form the youngest ever Oha Coven. Their mission is to track down Black Hat Otokoto, the man responsible for kidnapping and maiming children. Will Sunny be able to overcome the killer with powers stronger than her own, or will the future she saw in the flames become reality?”
The first book in the Akata Witch duology is the perfect next step for Harry Potter fanatics. It hits most of the same high points – preteen who discovers they wield immense power, great evil lurking in the background, a group of disparate kids forming lifelong friendships, a wise but cranky mentor, a fantasy world accessible only to those with magic. Plus, Okorafor is an evocative writer with a keen eye for unique setting and worldbuilding. Her stories take the familiar and tweak them in such a way that it becomes wholly new. If you wished Harry Potter was more diverse and explored how different cultures might interpret magic, then you need Akata Witch. Not only is Middle Grade fiction, but it is tonally similar to the early Harry Potter books.
The Jumbies by Tracey Baptiste
The Jumbies #1 – April 28, 2015
“When Corinne spots a beautiful stranger speaking to the town witch at the market the next day, she knows something unexpected is about to happen. And when this same beauty, called Severine, turns up at Corinne’s house, cooking dinner for Corinne’s father, Corinne is sure that danger is in the air. She soon finds out that bewitching her father, Pierre, is only the first step in Severine’s plan to claim the entire island for the jumbies. Corinne must call on her courage and her friends and learn to use ancient magic she didn’t know she possessed to stop Severine and save her island home.”
Based on Haitian folklore, this story centers on a young girl, Corinne, whose family is haunted by a jumbie, a type of forest spirit. Severine might describe her actions as rooted in good intentions, but they’re so heavily skewed toward revenge and anger that she no longer cares about the pain she causes along the way. Corinne can’t rely on other adults for help. If she wants to save her island, she and her friends will have to do it themselves, much like Harry, Hermione, and Ron could only rely on each other.
Carry On by Rainbow Rowell
Simon Snow #1 – May 9, 2017
“Half the time, Simon can’t even make his wand work, and the other half, he starts something on fire. His mentor’s avoiding him, his girlfriend broke up with him, and there’s a magic-eating monster running around, wearing Simon’s face. Baz would be having a field day with all this, if he were here — it’s their last year at the Watford School of Magicks, and Simon’s infuriating nemesis didn’t even bother to show up.”
What if Harry and Draco had the hots for each other? If that question makes you giddy with excitement, then Carry On is definitely something you should check out. Simon and Baz have a long-standing rivalry that, like the best fanfic, simmers with slow burn feels and enemies-to-lovers situations. It’s charming, playful, and endearingly sweet but has just enough of an edge to keep things spicy.
Shadowshaper by Daniel José Older
Shadowshaper #1 – June 30, 2015
“Sierra Santiago was looking forward to a fun summer of making art, hanging out with her friends, and skating around Brooklyn. But then a weird zombie guy crashes the first party of the season. Sierra’s near-comatose abuelo begins to say “Lo siento” over and over. And when the graffiti murals in Bed-Stuy start to weep…. Well, something stranger than the usual New York mayhem is going on.”
Moving out of Middle Grade and into Young Adult, is the Shadowshaper series, which takes the Chosen One trope and runs wild with it. Sierra’s magic is big, bigger than even she realizes. And with it comes a host of responsibilities she’s not quite ready for. Only she can save New York City from an evil magician, but first she has to uncover the truth about her family’s magic and the dark secrets they’ve kept buried for decades. Older also shows how magic affects and is affected by social and cultural issues, and doesn’t shy away from touching on themes of racism, sexism, colorism, and police brutality.
In Other Lands by Sarah Rees Brennan
August 15, 2017
“The Borderlands aren’t like anywhere else. Don’t try to smuggle a phone or any other piece of technology over the wall that marks the Border—unless you enjoy a fireworks display in your backpack. (Ballpoint pens are okay.) There are elves, harpies, and—best of all as far as Elliot is concerned—mermaids.
Elliot? Who’s Elliot? Elliot is thirteen years old. He’s smart and just a tiny bit obnoxious. Sometimes more than a tiny bit. When his class goes on a field trip and he can see a wall that no one else can see, he is given the chance to go to school in the Borderlands.
It turns out that on the other side of the wall, classes involve a lot more weaponry and fitness training and fewer mermaids than he expected. On the other hand, there’s Serene-Heart-in-the-Chaos-of-Battle, an elven warrior who is more beautiful than anyone Elliot has ever seen, and then there’s her human friend Luke: sunny, blond, and annoyingly likeable. There are lots of interesting books. There’s even the chance Elliot might be able to change the world.”
While the Borderlands lack magic, there are plenty of magical creatures to be found. Elliot’s disappointment in finding a Narnia-like world without magic is ameliorated by the complex political systems, fascinating people, and challenging relationships he encounters. Those who grew up alongside Harry will have some of those emotions rekindled as they watch Elliot’s journey from awkward and angry 13-year-old to complicated and confident 17-year-old. Elliot starts off more like Draco, but by the end we see that there’s a lot more to him than the standard foe of the Chosen One trope.
Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi
Legacy of Orïsha #1 – March 6, 2018
“But everything changed the night magic disappeared. Under the orders of a ruthless king, maji were killed, leaving Zélie without a mother and her people without hope. Now Zélie has one chance to bring back magic and strike against the monarchy. With the help of a rogue princess, Zélie must outwit and outrun the crown prince, who is hell-bent on eradicating magic for good.”
Readers who liked the darker, more action-packed aspects of the later Harry Potter books would do well to try the first book in Tomi Adeyemi’s Nigerian-inspired YA fantasy. It’s a bloody, brutal, and intense adventure across a sprawling and chaotic nation as Zélie and her allies are hunted by a sadistic king and his conflicted son. If you like baddies, Voldemort has nothing on King Saran and Prince Inan puts Draco to shame. Zélie is the Chosen One, but her powers threaten to consume her. Readers will find her a more challenging protagonist than Harry. She makes a lot of sketchy decisions, but they’re always rooted in her need for justice (and vengeance).
The Belles by Dhonielle Clayton
The Belles #1 – February 6, 2018
“Camellia Beauregard is a Belle. In the opulent world of Orléans, Belles are revered, for they control Beauty, and Beauty is a commodity coveted above all else. In Orléans, the people are born gray, they are born damned, and only with the help of a Belle and her talents can they transform and be made beautiful…And when the queen asks Camellia to risk her own life and help the ailing princess by using Belle powers in unintended ways, Camellia now faces an impossible decision.”
This series may not sound like the most obvious choice for your post-Harry Potter needs. There’s no magic school, Big Bad mage, Chosen One, or kiddie adventures, and tonally it’s a ways away from anything JK Rowling has managed. But stick with me. The reason I put the first book in the Belles series on this list is because of its larger themes. Camille and Harry both take on foes way more powerful and connected than they, and have to rely on their wits as much as their magic. Both must learn to trust others and that tradition doesn’t necessarily mean perfect or right. They lose people they care about, but work with the allies they have to make the world a better place. And Clayton does it all while critiquing Western beauty standards.
Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo
Shadow and Bone Trilogy #1 – June 5, 2012
“Wrenched from everything she knows, Alina is whisked away to the royal court to be trained as a member of the Grisha, the magical elite led by the mysterious Darkling. Yet nothing in this lavish world is what it seems. With darkness looming and an entire kingdom depending on her untamed power, Alina will have to confront the secrets of the Grisha…and the secrets of her heart.”
After an expedition into the Shadow Fold goes horribly awry, Alina’s latent magical ability to create light is revealed. She’s recruited into the order of the Grisha where she learns about her powers from the more-to-him-than-meets-the-eye leader known as Darkling. Alina feels lost in the lavish world of the Grisha, a poor girl who has never felt important or worthy. With propulsive action and deep character relationships, this series is ideal for your post-Harry Potter blues.
These Witches Don’t Burn by Isabel Sterling
These Witches Don’t Burn #1 – May 28, 2019
“Evidence of dark magic begins to appear all over Salem, and Hannah’s sure it’s the work of a deadly Blood Witch. The issue is, her coven is less than convinced, forcing Hannah to team up with the last person she wants to see: Veronica. While the pair attempt to smoke out the Blood Witch at a house party, Hannah meets Morgan, a cute new ballerina in town. But trying to date amid a supernatural crisis is easier said than done, and Hannah will have to test the limits of her power if she’s going to save her coven and get the girl, especially when the attacks on Salem’s witches become deadlier by the day.”
If you wanted wizards to live amongst muggles instead of hiding out in Hogwarts and Diagon Alley all the time, you gotta try These Witches Don’t Burn. Hannah has to keep her Elemental magic a secret from the Regs (aka muggles) because if she’s caught she could lose her powers. So when someone casts a dark, bloody spell she has to team up with her nemesis (aka her ex-girlfriend Veronica). A little bit Buffy, a little bit Harry Potter, and a whole lot queer.
The Magicians by Lev Grossman
The Magicians #1 – August 11, 2009
“Imagine his surprise when he finds himself unexpectedly admitted to a very secret, very exclusive college of magic in upstate New York, where he receives a thorough and rigorous education in the craft of modern sorcery. He also discovers all the other things people learn in college: friendship, love, sex, booze, and boredom. Something is missing, though. Magic doesn’t bring Quentin the happiness and adventure he dreamed it would. After graduation he and his friends make a stunning discovery: Fillory is real. But the land of Quentin’s fantasies turns out to be much darker and more dangerous than he could have imagined.”
Like Carry On, the Magicians series is on nearly every “if you like Harry Potter…” reading list, and for good reason. It’s about as close to Harry Potter as adult fiction gets. Quentin is a gifted magician who goes to an elite magic school and encounters a Big Bad eager to destroy everything in his quest for ultimate power. But it’s also about living with depression, about making bad choices and dealing with the consequences, and growing up whether you want to or not. Many readers find Quentin epically irritating, but he’s one of my favorite fictional characters of all time. He’s frustrating and infuriating, but his most unlikeable traits are what entice me the most. If you’ve seen/enjoyed the TV show, be prepared for the books to be drastically different.
Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell by Susanna Clarke
September 8, 2004
“Jonathan Strange is handsome, charming, and talkative – the very opposite of Mr Norrell. Strange thinks nothing of enduring the rigors of campaigning with Wellington’s army and doing magic on battlefields. Astonished to find another practicing magician, Mr Norrell accepts Strange as a pupil. But it soon becomes clear that their ideas of what English magic ought to be are very different. For Mr Norrell, their power is something to be cautiously controlled, while Jonathan Strange will always be attracted to the wildest, most perilous forms of magic. He becomes fascinated by the ancient, shadowy figure of the Raven King, a child taken by fairies who became king of both England and Faerie, and the most legendary magician of all. Eventually Strange’s heedless pursuit of long-forgotten magic threatens to destroy not only his partnership with Norrell, but everything that he holds dear.”
At nearly 1,000 pages, Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell may not be the easiest post-Harry Potter novel to pick up, but it’s certainly one of the best. Clarke’s version of Regency England is full of fantastical creatures and daring adventure, but it’s the characters who have the strongest pull. Strange and Norrell are complex characters, neither truly good or truly evil. Although they think of themselves as opposites, they’re really more like complements. Their inability to trust each other creates the space for bad actors to cause chaos, and the only way to save the day is to work together.
Sorcerer to the Crown by Zen Cho
Sorcerer Royal #1 – September 1, 2015
“At his wit’s end, Zacharias Wythe, freed slave, eminently proficient magician, and Sorcerer Royal of the Unnatural Philosophers—one of the most respected organizations throughout all of Britain—ventures to the border of Fairyland to discover why England’s magical stocks are drying up. But when his adventure brings him in contact with a most unusual comrade, a woman with immense power and an unfathomable gift, he sets on a path which will alter the nature of sorcery in all of Britain—and the world at large…”
There are a lot of reasons to love Harry Potter, but we have to admit the series isn’t exactly the best when it comes to diversity. And so I give you Sorcerer to the Crown, another Regency England-set novel. This one, however, features a biracial Black magician thrust into a position of ultimate power, the Southeast Asian magicienne who may be more powerful than he is, and the stodgy, bigoted rich old white dudes intent on bringing them down. Cho goes in on racism, sexism, homophobia (and the intersectionality of their oppressive systems), not to mention her scathing critique of colonialism. By the second book, The True Queen, there’s even a magic school.
Magic for Liars by Sarah Gailey
June 4, 2019
“Ivy Gamble has never wanted to be magic. She is perfectly happy with her life—she has an almost-sustainable career as a private investigator, and an empty apartment, and a slight drinking problem. It’s a great life and she doesn’t wish she was like her estranged sister, the magically gifted professor Tabitha.
But when Ivy is hired to investigate the gruesome murder of a faculty member at Tabitha’s private academy, the stalwart detective starts to lose herself in the case, the life she could have had, and the answer to the mystery that seems just out of her reach.”
Chosen One? Check. Magic school? Check. Mysterious circumstances? Check. People who aren’t what they seem? Check check check! As Sarah Gailey put it, Magic for Liars “is about the cost of ambition, the lies we tell ourselves, and the stories we hide in. Ivy Gamble will tell you for free: regret is a waste of time. She doesn’t regret a thing. Not a thing. She’s just *fine*.”