Young Adult fantasy is a popular category for both adults and teens/pre-teens. It is common to ridicule it, but there is something comforting about YA Fantasy. As I have thought about it previously, and written before, part of what is different the last couple decades in the Fantasy world is that clear separation between good and evil is no long popular. It is not that older fantasy writers like Tolkien or Lewis made all of their characters one dimensional or perfect, but that even in showing the weaknesses of Edmund in the Lion, Witch, and the Wardrobe or Gandalf in the Lord of the Rings, there was a sense of the weaknesses and wrongness of decisions were character defects and things to be overcome or repented for or at the least, part of the reason for the necessity of a balanced group.
Much, but not all, of modern adult oriented fantasy like Lev Grossman’s Magician series or VE Schwab’s A Darker Shade of Magic have blurred the lines between good and evil. There are good reasons for that, you need conflict, and you have to push boundaries in genre fiction because even though conventions exist, flaunting them is one way to get noticed. YA fiction then tends to be one of the places that adults can return to for a clearer sense what it means to fight evil.
In the second book of the Gateway Chronicles, the six return to the fantasy world of Alitheia. Evil was pushed back at the end of the last book, but not defeated. The six are all excited to return, but Darcy, the main protagonist, is uncomfortable with the prophecy that has foretold her marriage to Prince Tellius. Tellius is just as uncomfortable with the idea and Darcy starts to understand how knowing of the prophecy from birth has impacted Tellius’ life.
Soon after their arrival in Alitheia, Tellius shares with Darcy that there may be a way to find out if they actually need to get married by going to the Oracle. But as with magic in most fantasy worlds, there is a price. The rest of the book is about the quest for the Oracle and the price that Darcy may end up paying for the answer that she seeks. And at the edge of the story is always the evil that seeks to overtake Alitheia and stop the six from being able to fulfill the prophecy.
This is a series that focuses on young adults, they are 14 in this book. There are still lots of bad decisions because of both immaturity and self-centeredness. But these are likable characters and they feel like realistic teens. I am now midway through the third book in the series and they have been a refreshing change of pace.