Flip open the page. It’s time for you to be emotionally invested in the very normal life of a fantasy character. These fantasy coming-of-age stories have no big quest — it’s literally just a coming-of-age story that takes place in a fantasy setting.
Sometimes, we don’t want to read about someone defeating the fated dragon that has lurked on the western edge of the dark grove. We don’t want a chosen one to fulfill their destiny. We could even do without a bevy of hapless heroes who just had to set out on a quest. Instead, we would much rather prefer to read about someone growing up as best they can without too much fuss. These are those stories.
I would say this was an easy task, but that would be a lie. This was actually a surprisingly difficult task and required me to use my best fantasy thinking cap. So, without further fanfare, here are the books you should read if you do not want a quest of any kind but still love a fantasy coming-of-age story. They range in age categories from adult to young adult to middle grade fantasy. I hope you have the absolute best time with these fantasy coming-of-age stories.
Adult Fantasy Coming-of-Age Stories
The Very Secret Society of Irregular Witches by Sangu Mandanna
Youtuber, witch, and orphan Mika Moon’s life changes forever when she agrees to an email requesting she lend her expertise to three young witches in the countryside. Mika cannot say no to the girls’ non-magical guardians, who desperately need someone to train their magic before it becomes unmanageable. There is no big quest, just a witch determined to give three young girls something she never had: a family.
The Hob’s Bargain by Patricia Briggs
On Aren’s wedding day, raiders killed her husband and family, and magic returned to the land. Her once-a-week visions are now stronger than ever, and after losing everything, she is willing to reveal her powers to the other villagers to keep them safe. Moreover, she is willing to make a deal with the inhumanly powerful and seemingly immortal Hob of the mountains to protect her village from future attacks in exchange for her hand. Briggs explores what it means to come of age and change what your hometown expects from you.
Content warnings: ableism, death of a parent, animal death
The Black God’s Drums by P. Djèlí Clark
Creeper may be a teen with a secret powerful link to Oya, the West African orisha of the wind and storms, but that has not helped her escape her life in New Orleans. In an alternate American history where the South successfully used poison gas to control the population, New Orleans is one of the last holdouts of Confederate rule. Creeper wants out, and to secure passage on a smuggler airship, she is willing to leverage an important secret about a kidnapped Haitian scientist and the weapon he developed. Here, there is no big quest, just a girl doing what she can to survive in the world she was given.
Content warnings: racism, enslavement, sexual harassment
Young Adult Fantasy Coming-of-Age Stories
Pet by Akwaeke Emezi
In Lucille, monsters don’t exist. That is what Jam has been told all her life, at least. But when a drop of Jam’s blood seemingly awakens Pet, a creature from her mother’s painting that has come to hunt a monster in her best friend’s house, Jam begins to question everything. Now, if she wants to save her friend, Jam will have to work with Pet to kill a monster that shouldn’t exist in the first place. Sometimes, growing up involves questioning what you’ve learned to discover the truth.
Content warning: child abuse
Wench by Maxine Kaplan
Tanya has worked too long as a tavern wench to let her tavern and home get repossessed by the queen’s guard after her guardian dies. Naturally, she sets out on a journey to petition the queen to keep her tavern. When she encounters a band of thieves, she accidentally gains possession of a magical quill that can rewrite the fabric of the world, and she becomes the biggest assistant her kingdom has ever known. Tanya wants nothing more than to be an excellent tavern wench in possession of her workplace, but grand adventure just keeps getting in her way.
Content warning: self-harm
Forging Silver Into Stars by Brigid Kemmerer
When the King’s courier, Tycho, accidentally falls for a blacksmith in a small town, he uncovers a rebellion that could dismantle the royal court. Working under his cruel father as a blacksmith, Jax knows how thoughtless he can be, but when he discovers he spent their tax money on drinks, he has to scramble to save his livelihood. His best friend, Callyn, has taxes that are also due on her family’s bakery after her father died in a failed rebellion against the crown. So, when a rich stranger appears and asks them to hold a message for coin, they say yes. This is such an unusual high fantasy book because it centers on people coming of age who just happen to be stuck between the fated royalty and political dissidents.
Content warnings: ableism, past sexual assault, child abuse, death of a parent, animal death
Across the Green Grass Fields by Seanan McGuire
This Wayward Children novella follows Reagan, a horse girl who steps through a doorway into the Hooflands after her friend betrays her trust by sharing that Reagan is intersex with their classmates. Luckily, a kind herd of centaurs find her and raise her as one of their own. Reagan learns how to avoid kelpies, herd unicorns, and have fun. Anyone else would have asked her to be the human hero they had all been waiting for, but Reagan was raised to be wary of any quest and the heroes who supposedly answered the call.
Content warning: interphobia
A Middle-Grade Fantasy Coming-of-Age Story
Wildseed Witch by Marti Dumas
After finishing seventh grade, Hasani wants to use her summer to gain more followers on her makeup YouTube channel and reverse her parents’ divorce. Instead, after an unexpected display of magic, she is presented with an invitation to a witch charm school to learn how to control powers she never knew she had. Now, she has entered a world filled with young girls from old-money witch families who will do anything to continue their families’ magical legacies. Hasani doesn’t come from a witch family, but as she grows into her impressive power, she discovers her place in a world that was not built for her but meant for her.
I hope you enjoy these fantasy coming-of-age stories. Sometimes, we all want a slice of the fantastic without the baggage of a fated quest to bog it down. Just to watch someone grow and change in fantasy worlds. If you are looking for other fantasy book recommendations, try these Fantasy Books with “No Rules, Just Vibes” Magic Systems, these High Fantasy Books, or these Adult Versions of Your Favorite Childhood Fantasy Novels.