YA fantasy series from late 80s with a group of young people on a quest
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My first thought was actually Riddle of Stars, which was partly packaged as YA in the 80s, but I think the characters were a bit older than you're thinking of.
There's something else niggling at me that it might be; I'll have to think about it. do you remember if he actually died, or if it came out all right in the end?
you could try the ya-1980s-fantasy tagmash if you think skimming a list of titles might help. (And here's ya-fantasy-quest-death)
But, as with the Fionavar Tapestry, even if it's not the book you're thinking of, it's worth a read!
Sorry but I don't remember which of the books it was in.
Editing for touchstones and to say that of the three, Lirael seems the closest match to the sacrificial theme.
I'm not really sure that this is the series you're looking for, but you might like it, and it may be the one after all.