Magical schools to enjoy after Harry Potter

There have been many discussions over the years of what to read after the Harry Potter series ended in 2007, and over the last couple of years, for reasons that are eminently google-able, this subject has come up again. This list on the Australian broadcaster website ABU is a great resource, but being a children’s fantasy literature scholar, I think I can add to it.

Tamora Pierce has been writing children’s fantasy since 1983, starting with Alanna- the First Adventure, but my favourite sequence in the Tortall universe is about Keladry of Mindelan, who is the first girl to openly apply to train as a knight after Alanna’s trailblazing, where she had to hide her gender. Kel has several challenges ahead of her: not only is she a girl, but she is also tall, broad and strong so she deals with body shaming as well as outright misogyny. She was brought up in the Yamani Islands, former enemies of Tortall, so is unprepared for the levels of snobbery/ class prejudice and bullying she encounters. Kel refuses to change who she is; she will not hide her gender and challenges the bullying in the system as well as overcoming her fear of heights to get through her training. 12+.

Pierce’s Circle of Magic books are more consciously diverse- there are 4 protagonists from different geographical parts of the universe, and from different social classes. The two women in charge of the 4 children are in a relationship, and in later books the relationship is polyamorous. Each of the initial series is told through the perspective of all protagonists, so the reader gets the perspective of aristocratic white Sandry, nomadic Black trader Daja, white middle class Tris and Brown former street boy Briar.

Unfortunately these books are not easy to find in the UK, but they are available as e-books.

Coincidentally Diane Duane’s Young Wizards series was also first published in 1983. It is an intrusion fantasy along the lines of E. Nesbit or Edward Eager, where two children discover that magic is abroad in the mimetic world, in New York. Both protagonists are Latinx and lower middle class, dealing with bullying, family issues, school and their feelings for each other throughout the 11 novels. Diane was a guest of honour at Dublin WorldCon last year, and she was funny and engaging. Again, these books have not had a wide publication in the UK, but are available as e-books.

My third suggestion is Jessica Townsend’s Nevermoor books, starting with The Trials of Morrigan Crow. These books are playful, inventive and thought provoking, with a great relationship between Morrigan and her mentor, Jupiter North, and his nephew Jack. So far there are two books published in the series, with a third to come in September (hint to my loved ones- it would make a fantastic birthday present…) The second book in the series has the school story element, and has a diverse cast, though Morrigan is fully the protagonist and the story is limited third person. They are delightful.

Finally, for young adults and adults, I recommend Gabby Hutchison-Crouch’s hilarious Darkwood and Such Big Teeth. Gabby is a former writer for BBC’s Horrible Histories, News Quiz and Now Show, so the funniness should not come as a shock. I first encountered her through her brilliant podcast Portenteous Perils in the Twenty Third Century, which has frequently made me laugh aloud on train journeys.

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