Megan Scott chats The Temptation of Magic and the appeal of YA fantasy

BookTok made New Adult fantasy popular, but YA fantasy has not lost its appeal.


To celebrate the release of The Temptation of Magic, Megan Scott is here to chat why YA has such a broad appeal. The Temptation of Magic is the first in a trilogy that has been described as Serpent and Dove meets A Discovery of Witches.

Young Adult (YA) novels have boomed in popularity and number over the last twenty years. But more recently, BookTok has sent some of these stratospheric. Many of app’s big hitters are Romantasy and YA fantasy, but beyond the marketing power of a global platform that’s able to reach ravenous readers, what’s so special about these types of books?

YA Fantasy as a genre and age category is unique in that its readership goes far beyond its target audience of 13–18-year-olds, and right up to people into their thirties and beyond. This broad appeal could be explained through several theories such as nostalgia, joy and escapism. But there’s one main trait that I think explains it: the coming of age.

Almost every book has its character arcs. To complete a satisfying story, we need to have gone on a journey with the protagonist, be it from princess to queen, cadet to dragon-rider, human to Fae. But in the process, the character becomes who they’re meant to be emotionally as well. They let go of their limiting beliefs and embrace their potential. Now while arcs are crucial to every book, there is a key difference to understanding yourself through such an arc, and discovering who you are. This features heavily in YA, but also Romantasy, where we’ve seen the huge popularity of crossover books like Fourth Wing and the ACOTAR series, whose characters begin their stories at nineteen/twenty years old and hark back to the now lost bridge category of ‘New Adult’, which Romantasy seems to thankfully have resurrected.

But I think the reason this appeal is so unique to YA and still reaches so many readers is the fact that we’re never finished discovering who we are. And, I don’t know what’s caused it, but I feel like everywhere I look, people are more self-aware. Perhaps it’s the rising normality of discussing and going to therapy, or analysing the world and culture through global issues, or even the eternal sharing of lives and struggles and dreams we experience daily on social media that attunes us more to our own personal journeys. But it seems we understand more about ourselves: about why we act the way we do, where certain fears or limiting beliefs come from, and how we might improve the world and ourselves.

This is the exact same thing for a classic (and satisfying) character arc. We learn with the characters; we grow with the characters. And that’s part of the essential experience of YA. You’re always safe to keep making mistakes and learning and growing. Opening a YA fantasy at any age (but especially as you get older) welcomes you right back without judgement. Because in YA you’re not supposed to have it all figured out, you’re not supposed to have done XYZ by a certain age or with certain finesse. The characters are often the inexperienced, the ones who are only just learning about the magic they possess, the ones muddling through saving the world and always making mistakes along the way.

So beyond the sense of companionship, escapism or pure satisfaction we get from reading a damn good story, we also get the evergreen reminder that life is an adventure. That you will fail sometimes, but you can always get back up and reach that happy-ever-after. And that, I think, is not only how fantasy affects reality, but why YA has such a broad appeal.

It’s a place to remember: you will learn throughout your whole life, and I will be with you every step of the way.

The Temptation of Magic by Megan Scott is out May 23 (HarperVoyager UK). 
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