Hello bookworms!! Are you looking for something new to fill that Harry Potter ‘magic school’ series void in your life??
Let’s be honest, the absolute shitshow of JK Rowling’s recent(ish) social media outbursts have had a lot of us questioning our support of the Potterverse. A lot of my friends have stopped buying official merch (which gives JK money), taken their HP books off their shelves, or even given them away. Maybe one day we’ll be better able to differentiate between the artist and the art, but for a lot of the queer community and its allies, ties have been cut. And quite rightly so.
If you want to know how you can support the trans community and be a better ally, please check out these resources.
However, I’m not here (today at least) to rant about Joanne. No. Instead, I’m here to present you with options of other, BETTER, books that can fill the HP void in your life.
I was intending on making this one VERY long post with a bunch of options to cover the tropes that are in HP (magic school, ‘chosen one’, prophecies, found family, etc.) but the post was getting kind of ridiculously long. So instead, you’re getting a brand new series where I can also rant
at to you about all of the amazing books out there that you could be reading while we set our copies of HP on fire. (Yes, I am joking. No one should be setting anything on fire. I don’t condone burning of books, even if the author is a troll – in a dungeon or not.)
But whatever you’re looking for, I hope you find something here.
This was definitely one of my favourite things about HP. A magical boarding school set in the United Kingdom was something that I always fantasised about. Hell, I fantasised about going to a non-magical boarding school in the UK. But anyway, let’s talk about some great books featuring magical schools.
Nevermoor – Jessica Townsend
Let’s be honest, I’ve been screaming that Nevermoor is the new (and improved) HP anyway, so of course this is the first one on my list.
Now, technically the first book isn’t about Morrigan (Mog) being AT magic school… it’s about her getting INTO magic school. But after this, not only is Mog attending a very fancy school set in the city of Nevermoor, she also a very special student.
There are of course, additional parallels in the series, such as Mog being a ‘cursed’ child / ‘chosen one’, she has an enemy that haunts her, and they are ‘linked’. Additionally, Mog doesn’t live with her family and the books have themes of found family.
But Nevermoor does something different. It teaches love and understanding. Mog’s benefactor might be a bit distracted at times, but he is never abusive. There might be a mean teacher or student, but they are dealt with in that book, and the reader sees the life lesson that Mog is taught. There is more ‘good’ and diversity in this story in the two books currently released, than there are in the entire seven books of HP.
Percy Jackson – Rick Riordan
To be fair, at this point in time, I have still only read The Lightning Thief, which is book one (of five) in the series. However, I would recommend this series based on a Rick Riordan tweet. While the Percy Jackson series is probably less ‘magical school’ and more ‘magical summer camp’, I still think the series fits here.
This is another series with lots in common with HP: the quest, the ‘chosen one’ trope, the big, indomitable bad-guy, and great friendships. However, what this series excels at is everything else. There is amazing diversity, there’s a coming together of people on opposite sides of the fence, and Riordan works hard to ensure that the fandom belongs to the fans.
PLUS, it’s based on Greek mythology, which I thought was seriously cool when I was teenager!!
Simon Snow – Rainbow Rowell
Yes, yes. I know this started off as a Drarry-type fanfic in another book by Rowell (Fangirl, which you should totally read first). But Carry On has become its own thing. Not just for me, but for anyone who has read the books. Mostly, because it’s better than HP anyway.
To be entirely fair, they’re really only at school for the first book, and even then they’re barely AT the school. But it does also tick off the ‘chosen one’ trope. Plus it’s fun and it’s gay and it’s got mixed race main characters, which already puts it light years ahead of HP in terms of diversity. The flip side, of course, is that it’s not own voices. BUT, it also doesn’t go down the fetishisation path that a lot of non-own voices m/m romances do.
It is highly likely that I’ll talk about this book for the ‘chosen one’ trope post as well because it has this extra element that I think is really clever. (I know it makes more sense to talk about it then – but if I don’t mention it now everyone will be all “but what about Watford?!!”). Also, I might be dying on the inside for book three.
The Crowns of Croswald – D. E. Night
I genuinely loved The Crowns of Croswald. And, just like Nevermoor, it felt a little bit like a new HP anyway (but better). Because I’m not sure how well known this series is (it IS self-published by the author), I’ll give you a mini synopsis (no judgement — I wrote this):
Ivy Lovely is an orphan servant girl in a castle and has always dreamed of being a scrivener (like a professor/academic with magic). On her 16th birthday she is given a chance to become one by attending a magic school (the Halls of Ivy).
So Ivy (and her pet dragon) head off to the school, where the world is on the brink of a war with the Dark Queen.
While it might feel a lot like HP, there are so many differences, but the biggest one is the feel you get from the world building.
Because this is a high fantasy world (not urban fantasy like HP) there are all of these beautifully described and imaginative things: porcupines that gift quills from their backs to write with, fairies in jars instead of lights, and carriages that fly through clouds. It’s just such an amazing world. Plus there’s ‘chosen one’, prophecy and found family tropes too!!
Vampire Academy – Richelle Mead
It’s probably not what you think of when you think ‘magic school’, but Vampire Academy definitely does fit!! Also, please don’t judge this series from the movie (the movie… wasn’t great… but I also didn’t hate it?!!).
Anyway, while this is more of a vampire story, I still think it counts because the Moroi (fancy vamps) ARE magic users. AND they have elemental magic lessons at school.
You also get ‘chosen one’ vibes because there is a REASON that Vasilisa is so crap at all of the magic classes. (Although this is literally the only good thing about her – otherwise I found her a bit whiny… But Rose is AMAZING.)
Plus there’s heaps of awesome found family bits in this series.
Fallen – Lauren Kate
Ok, I admit, this is where I probably start to lose the thread and head into all those random teenage dramatic (almost dystopian feels) worlds.
With Fallen we have the high school trope, and LOTS of ‘chosen one’ vibes. There’s also found family, good vs evil, and prophecies. But it’s not REALLY magic… But bear with me!!
See, it’s not technically magic, because it’s about angels. Fallen angels to be specific. But, it’s also not a ‘normal’ school. And I think from memory the kids learn about nephilim? (But trust me when I say that I loved this WAAAAY more than Hush, Hush.)
So, it’s star-crossed lovers and fallen angels and, yes, there are a lot of Christianity vibes, but I just really loved it. If I still had my copies then I would probably reread them. *sigh*
The School for Good and Evil – Soman Chainani
I am fully aware that this one even has “school” in the title, and should probably be higher up on my list… But alas, I have not actually read this one yet. I know, shame on me.
The only defence I have here is that I really only found out about it this year. And just quietly, I love the synopsis for this:
Each year two children are kidnapped (girls, boys, both, either – gender it doesn’t matter), but one is always beautiful and sweet, and the other is more of an outcast. And no one knows what happens to them. Except this year, best friends Sophie and Agatha are taken. And this is their story as they arrive at the School for Good and Evil.
What I love most about this synopsis is that you are kind of led down a very tropey path, only to discover that the good and beautiful child is the one taking the evil classes!! So good!!
Hex Hall – Rachel Hawkins
Ok, this is the last one, I promise!! It’s also the second one that I haven’t read, but I had to add it because the two Rachel Hawkins books that I HAVE read, I absolutely adored.
So, from what I understand, the premise of this is that Sophie, the MC, is sent to Hex Hall which is like a reform school for wayward teen witches and warlocks. (I guess instead of grounding her?)
And then it seems to be a crossover of Mean Girls, Carry On and maybe like The Wizards of Waverly Place. As I said, I haven’t read this, but it definitely sounds like something fun!!
Ahhhh… magic school books are so great!! I’m adding more books to my own TBR here… which is mildly terrifying!!