6 YA Novels Starring Evil (and Irresistible) Magical Ladies

One of my favorite things to read about is ambitious ladies. Magical ambitious ladies. Magical ambitious ladies willing to do whatever it takes to get what they want. Some folks might call them evil. And hey, maybe they are. But I love them all the same. If you, too, love evil magical ladies, here are six books to add to your to-read list right now.

Forest of a Thousand Lanterns, by Julie C. Dao
Dao’s debut is the evil Slytherin book of your dreams, with an ambitious heroine and snake imagery that lend themselves well to the Hogwarts house. But there’s more to this East Asian reimagining of the Evil Queen story, in which Xifeng could become Empress of Feng Lu if only she embraces her power—power that comes from eating the hearts of the recently killed. Working evil magic? Oh, yes. Does Xifeng do it anyway? Oh, yes. More, please!

Three Dark Crowns, by Kendare Blake
Pick a crown, any crown. Pick a queen, any queen. Three Dark Crowns features triplet queens, each a possible heir to the throne and all capable of a narrow kind of magic. Mirabella’s an elemental. Arisinoe’s a naturalist. And Katharine? She’s a poisoner. (Though a rather weak one, as the book begins.) The magics in and of themselves aren’t necessarily evil—it’s all in how you use them. And these three sisters are destined to use them in order to kill each other and take the throne. The real question is: who will YOU be rooting for?

The Shadow Queen, by C.J. Redwine
Let’s get the most important thing out of the way: this reimagining of Snow White features a dragon huntsman. A huntsman who is a dragon shapeshifter. Nobody told me this when the book first came out, and now I feel the need to shout it from the rooftops. But this list is about magical evil ladies, and The Shadow Queen has two: Lorelai (our Snow White) and Irina (our Evil Queen). Lorelai will do anything to destroy Irina and retrieve her crown, and Irina will do anything to keep it, both using the only thing they have in common: magic.

Sea Witch, by Sarah Henning
If you’ve ever danced around singing “Poor Unfortunate Souls” from The Little Mermaid, or wondered exactly how Ursula became the evil villain she is, then I’ve got good news: Sarah Henning has you covered. Though Evie isn’t necessarily evil at the beginning of The Sea Witch—she is an outcast, true, and the death of her best friend contributes to a great villain origin story—but all magic comes with a cost, and when a girl who looks weirdly like her lost best friend washes ashore, that magic is stretched to its limits. I’m reluctant to say more until Sea Witch releases in July—spoilers!—but if you love Wicked or Heartless, you’ll love this one, too.

The Bone Witch, by Rin Chupeco
I have an unhealthy fascination with two things: cannibalism and necromancy. I suppose it can be boiled down into a fascination with death and my own mortality, but either way, it creeps out my mother—which means I could never, ever give her The Bone Witch. Chupeco’s beautiful fantasy novel takes place in a world where Tea accidentally discovers her skill for necromancy, making her one of the rare bone witches. What makes this story stand out—besides Tea’s delightful embrace of her evil side—is its detailed worldbuilding. With Kaiju-esque monsters, mouthwatering food descriptions, detailed kingdom history, and a hint of an even more expansive universe to come, this is a great read for those who like to sink into a new world and muck about in its lore.

To Kill A Kingdom, by Alexandra Christo
If you finished Daughter of the Pirate King last year and thought, “I want more sirens, but evil,” have I got news for you! In debut novel To Kill a Kingdom, Lira is a princess, siren royalty, and completely lethal—until she’s transformed into a human as punishment for murder. If she doesn’t hand over the heart of the local prince, she’ll be doomed to be a human forever. It sounds familiar—this, too, is a story inspired by “The Little Mermaid”—but its first line alone will show you that it’s anything but done before: “I have a heart for every year I’ve been alive.”

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