Top Ten Tuesday

Top Ten Tuesday: Frequently used words in YA Fantasy titles

Top Ten Tuesday was created by The Broke and the Bookish in June of 2010 and was moved to That Artsy Reader Girl in January of 2018. It was born of a love of lists, a love of books, and a desire to bring bookish friends together. This week’s theme is:

April 24: Frequently Used Words In [Insert Genre/Age Group] Titles

When I saw this title I almost yelled in excitement. There’s so much potential to have fun with this topic in any genre, but since there are a lot of similar naming conventions in YA titles, I chose YA fantasy.

1. A/The _____ Of _________

This is a hugely popular word formation for YA titles at the moment, because it has a rhythmical beat if the blanks are one-syllable words. It also usually gives you a hint about the setting or themes for the novel, and sounds dramatic to boot.

2. Queen(s)

YA fantasy loves a bit of royalty, so it’s fitting that a lot of the titles involve Queens. ‘Queen’ and ‘prince’ seem to be much more popular than ‘princess’ and ‘King’, because lots of YA fantasy novels involve either a girl/woman discovering she’s royalty, or a girl befriending (and usually falling in love with) a prince. The only issue with this is it excludes NB and genderqueer/genderfluid readers. Does anyone know if there’s a non-binary version of Queen/King and prince/princess? I really hope there is.

3. Kingdom(s)

If you’re going to have royalty for your main characters, then it stands to reason that they live in some kind of kingdom.

4. Themes of darkness and shadows

YA fantasy is often about light and darkness, and usually involves characters having to overcoming darkness or defeat the shadows. Makes sense that these words would end up in the title.

5. Magicians

If it’s fantasy you’re reading, chances are there’s going to be elements of magic and the supernatural. And where there’s magic, there are often magicians.

6. City

If your fantasy novel isn’t set in a kingdom, it’s got to be set in a city right?! For urban YA fantasies, this is certainly the case. I mean, Cassandra Clare based her entire series off that word. Cities are vast, diverse, and have the potential for revolution, which makes them such a great backdrop for adventure fantasy.

7. Sky and Stars

If you’re a YA protagonist in a mystical kingdom/city, there’s a good 78.3% chance you’re going to be aiming for the stars at some point. Or the there’s going to be a beautiful night sky you’ll appreciate. Or you’re going to have to read the stars to survive. Or the sky turns a strange colour as an omen of impending doom. Or- well, you probably get the picture.

8. Alliteration in titles

OK, granted, two of the titles below are YA Westerns (not fantasy), but the point still stands that authors love a good alliteration if it sounds punchy.

9. Blood

Everybody loves a bit of blood in YA for some reason. I feel like we should be concerned?

10. Striking one-word titles

One way to grab the reader’s attention is to title your YA novel in just one word. One word to epitomise the whole book and yet still be mysterious enough to make someone want to read it is quite a big ask. Sometimes, authors merge two nouns into one to give more of an idea of what the novel is about. Jay Kristoff in particular seems to be a big fan of this. But kudos to any author who can represent all the themes and complexities of their book in one word, I’m not sure I could.

So basically, in conclusion, if your YA title doesn’t involve royalty living in a kingdom, then it’s probably about a city with a magician or two. Oh and there’s going to be blood. No matter where it’s set or what it’s about.

What are some of your favourite book titles? Are there any naming conventions for YA fantasy that you really love (or really hate)?

Until next time

20 thoughts on “Top Ten Tuesday: Frequently used words in YA Fantasy titles

  1. There are so many good books on this list. I have become more aware recently that a lot of titles sound similar and it is actually starting to bug me. I love one word titles but it’s definitely a bonus when there is a really unqiue title to a book.

    1. Thanks Lorryn! Yeah, the more YA fantasy I’ve read, the more I’ve noticed that there are some definitely naming conventions that the authors seem to stick to. With new books being published every week I suppose it must be hard to think up a really original title, but there are definitely some good ones out there. 🙂

  2. I think it’s the same whatever genre you read in really. I notice with my reading it’s all Princes, Knives, Sword, Legends and Blood – blood really does seem to be very popular – and Girl – as I’m discovering this week.
    Lynn 😀

  3. Honestly my mind went blank for this topic. I knew there was so much potential for it but when I tried to make connections I just went blank. I’ve definitely picked up on the Sky and Stars connection though and I suppose it works if you want to give it that ethereal vibe.

    1. Yeah, it took me a while to write it, but once I started thinking of them, they just kept coming! I’d definitely agree with you about the ethereal vibe – YA books often romanticise skies and stars and it gives the book a magical/mystical feel when added to the title. 🙂

  4. So I didn’t really think about it until now, but now I am concerned about all of these book titles we read with obscure names, darkness and blood…. hahaha. It’s funny, when we start to look at all of these books together, we notice the patterns, the same titles everywhere and… once we do, we just can’t stop seeing the similarities everywhere, it’s… a bit frustrating hahhaa.
    Lovely post, Kate! 🙂 x

  5. So true! There are so many patterns and definitely they must have some sort of naming and book cover design conventions. Very interesting 😀 lovely post!

  6. I love your take on this weeks topic Kate, and how you’ve picked ten different common words in YA titles (I stuck with one and just listed all the books I could think of but the one I picked is on your list so wow definitely common).
    There is a lot of darkness and shadows, I guess you don’t get many happy-go-lucky fantasy books do you, and a lot of cities and kingdoms as well. There is definitely a lot (a lot!) of royalty in YA fantasy too, now I think about it I can’t think of many series where there isn’t some kind of princess or prince as one of the main characters. I’m not sure if there are any gender fluid or non binary royalty MCs out there, but let me know if you find some. I’d be interested in reading their stories as well. 😀
    Great post, and great picks as well. 🙂 ❤

    1. Thanks Beth! You’re right – there aren’t many happy go lucky fantasy books but maybe someone should write one??? Because I’d honestly be very happy to read about some new faves going on cheerful adventures and not having anything bad happen to them. Yeah, I don’t know what the obsession with royalty is, but there are so few books with a governmental system that doesn’t include them. I just finished Ace of Shades, and that was one of the first fantasies I’ve read in a while that had no royals. Perhaps because it’s an urban fantasy? But yeah, I’m definitely going to be on the look out for gender neutral royalty and royal names now! Thanks for reading Beth ❤

      1. Yeah, I feel like it would definitely be a twist on the genre right? Where you didn’t have to worry about there being heartbreak because it was all cheerful and happy adventures. 😀
        I mean, I don’t mind books with royalty, some of my favourite series have royal characters in, but yeah we need some different options out there.
        That’s all right! 🙂 ❤

  7. That’s it. That’s the entire YA fantasy industry titled right there 😆 There’s so many with similar titles – I’ve actually come to hate the longer ones that just seem to list things with “and” in between, like A Court of Thorns and Roses, Children of Blood and Bone, Daughter of Smoke and Bone etc etc. They all sound so similar and take forever to say. Ain’t nobody got time for that 😆

    1. Ahahahahaha. Thank you. I’m pleased I covered the entire industry from top to bottom. 😉 I don’t mind the similarities in title construction as long as the themes and phrases are different, but as this week’s theme shows, we get a lottttt of books with ‘queens’, ‘blood’, and ‘kingdoms’ in. I suppose they’re popular things to write about within the genre, but it would be nice to get some more off-the-wall titles.

  8. OMG this is such a great list!! I never really thought about these patterns before, especially the first one you mention. However, now that you point it out, there really are some defined structures of YA titles. Who decided that these are the best kinds of titles to have?!?!?! 🙂

    1. Haha thanks Holly, glad you enjoyed reading! I’ve been thinking about the naming conventions for YA quite a bit recently, so I was really excited when I saw this week’s topic because it was a good opportunity to chat about it! I think there’s a lot of potency in the rhythm and syllabic structure of certain word forms, so authors try to use them to create a catchy title. Smart idea really 🙂

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