Few things satisfy that need for escapism during the cold winter months like 1980s fantasy movies—shout-out to Labyrinth and Legend—so here’s a list of awesome fantasy/mystery novels from—or almost from, or inspired by, or spiritually connected to—the 80s. So curl up in your favorite reading spot with a cup of hot chocolate, and get ready to escape into magical and fantastical worlds.
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Alanna: The First Adventure, by Tamora Pierce
In Alanna’s realm, girls aren’t allowed to be warriors. But all Alanna wants is to be a knight of the realm, so she disguises herself as a boy and takes her brother’s place in training to be a page in the palace of the King. She has to learn fighting skills, magic, and how to control her own fiery temperament. This book goes full 80s swords and sorcery as Alanna fights to fulfill her dreams and become a legend.
Howl’s Moving Castle, by Diana Wynne Jones
The source material for Miyazaki’s iconic animated movie, this haunting novel has everything you need for a snow day read: an evil Witch threatening to destroy the land, a mysterious Wizard who may hold the key to stopping her, all sorts of magical shenanigans, and, of course, that epic moving castle, making its way through the kingdom.
The Neverending Story, by Michael Ende
One of the 80s’ defining fantasy movies was based on a 1970s novel by German writer Michael Ende. Bastian Balthazar Bux is a book-loving kid who, while hiding from bullies in a mysterious bookstore, discovers a strange-looking book called The Neverending Story. When he starts to read, things get weird. As in, the things in the book become real, and he gets pulled into the story as the only one who can save the endangered realm of Fantastica. All the things you love from the movie (Falkor, Atreyu, Ajjjjjaaaaxxxxx!!) are there, plus a whole lot more magical awesomeness besides.
Wintersong, by S. Jae-Jones
If you’re a fan of Labyrinth—and let’s be honest, how could you not be?—then you need to get your hands on Wintersong. When Liesl’s sister is taken by the Goblin King, Liesl must travel into the Underground to save her. The Underground is a dark, enchanting world Liesl must work out how to navigate and survive in. This debut is a spellbinding tale of love, music, and finding out who you really are. It comes out in February, but fear not, here’s a sneak peek of the first five chapters, because you’re awesome and you deserve it.
The Princess Bride, by William Goldman
It’s theoretically possible that 80s fantasy movies get more classic than this one, but in reality…nah. Basically, you love this movie, and you’ll love the novel, too. It’s a little darker, and of course it has more time to flesh out some of those characters and relationships (like the Fezzik–Inigo Montoya bromance). Where the movie uses Columbo and the kid from The Wonder Years as a framing device to the fairy tale, the book has Goldman annotating and commenting on an older novel he’s supposedly discovered. But both have that magical love story that gets us all. So add a few extra marshmallows to your ho-cho and dive in.
The Ruby in the Smoke, by Philip Pullman
Pullman is the genius behind the His Dark Materials series. Before that masterpiece trilogy, he wrote a series of YA mystery-thrillers set in Victorian London. The year is 1872. Sixteen-year-old Sally Lockhart is trying to find out more about her father’s recent death at sea, when she’s drawn into a treacherous mystery in the seamy underbelly of London. There are ruthless villains, what can only be described as derring-do, and all kinds of thrills and scares as Sally gets drawn deeper into the nefarious plot. There’s also a ruby, but, you know, spoilers. Sally is a tough and gutsy heroine, and Pullman knows how to construct a thrilling mystery. Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow…